14 February 2019

New Book Engages Evangelical Millennials with the Bible through Smartphone Photography

But My servant Kalev, because he was imbued with a different spirit and remained loyal to Me—him will I bring into the land that he entered, and his offspring shall hold it as a possession.” (Numbers 14:24)
 
By Eliana Rudee

From Israel Breaking News/Israel365, January 14, 2019

In the context of a flourishing era for Jewish-Christian relations in the United States and abroad, Israel is witnessing a new level of passionate support from Evangelical Protestant Christians - a group that represents more than a quarter of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center.

Israeli professor and author Mel Alexenberg says that Israelis value the support of such Zionist Christians, who have largely been credited with strengthening the political and spiritual bonds between Washington and Jerusalem, especially under the Trump presidency. Their bond to Israel relies on the Biblical mandate to bless Israel and the belief that the modern rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 and re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel represents fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

However, in light of studies that raise concerns that the younger generation of Evangelical Christians “may not continue the enthusiasm for Israel of their parents and grandparents,” their support should not be taken for granted, says Alexenberg. The professor of art and education saw the great potential of Evangelical support for Israel, as well as the challenge of capturing the interest of the next generation, and set out to engage the younger generation towards a more Biblical and pro-Israel mindset.  

“There are many fine books written by Christian Zionists that set out the case for Israel based upon the Biblical narrative,” he wrote in a blog post. “I have found, however, that none speak in the language of the ubiquitous digital culture shaped by smartphones and social media. It is the language that Evangelical millennials understand best.”

Alexenberg’s newest book, published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing and entitled “Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media,” fills this void in a new and creative way, urging the younger generation of Jews and Christians to translate the Bible from contemporary viewpoints. “It speaks to the millennial generation in the their language of digital culture, smartphones and social media,” he told Breaking Israel News, “creating dialogue between digital texts and images that teach how Biblical insights can transform smartphone photography and social media into imaginative ways for seeing spirituality in everyday life.”

AT&T as well as American Airlines have sponsored his innovative efforts about which he writes in the book, such as a visual commentary that conceptually linked wings to corners of a garment and to corners of the United States.

He writes, “While working on my continent-wide artwork, I began to see the four corners of America through a Bible lens. The Biblical Hebrew word kanfot used for the four “corners” of one’s garment and metaphorically as the four “corners” of the earth is the same word used for “wings.”  The preeminent Biblical commentator Rashi points out the links between corners and wings, “The fringes are placed on the corners of their garments, alluding to God having freed the Israelites from Egypt, as it states, ‘and I carried you on the wings of eagles.’”






It brought to mind four Biblical passages:
Speak to the Israelites and say to them that they shall make fringes on the corner wings of their garments for all generations. And they shall include in the fringes of each corner wing a thread of sky-blue wool.” (Numbers 15:37)

Before the Israelites received the Ten Commandments, God tells Moses to say to the Israelites:
You saw what I did in Egypt, carrying you on wings of eagles and bringing you to me.” (Exodus 19:4).

Forty years later standing on the east bank of the Jordan River, Moses reviews the laws of the Torah for the generation born in the desert before they enter the Promised Land. He again said:
Make yourself fringes on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.” (Deuteronomy 22:12).

Before donning his prayer shawl each morning, a Jew says,May the talit spread its wings like an eagle rousing his nest, fluttering over its eaglets.”  

The Biblical prophecy in Isaiah 11:12 is being realized in our day:
He will ingather the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

I created Four Wings of America as a visual commentary that conceptually links wings to corners of a garment and to corners of the land. I made white rope multi-strand fringes each with a sky-blue thread to attach to the four corners of America.”

Alexenberg’s book is informative and educational, not read as a traditional “how to,” but clearly sparking food for thought for the younger generation about how they can make their photographs spiritual. Chapters include content on the creative process, to linking personal and Biblical narratives, to photographing attributes such as compassion, strength, beauty, success and splendor. “This is especially useful for a young person who has planned a trip to Israel,” said Alexenberg. “So they will know how to experience Israel, not just photographing, but seeing everything from a Biblical perspective.”

As a professor of art and education at Columbia University, research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies and dean of visual arts at New World School of the Arts in Miami (in addition to his many teaching credentials in Israel), Alexenberg has previously written academic books on the intersection of art, digital culture, and Jewish thought: The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness and Educating Artists for the Future, both published by Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press, and Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Four Essays on Judaism and Contemporary Art published in Hebrew in Jerusalem.

 
After looking into who purchased and read his academic books, Alexenberg realized that they were being purchased and read by more Evangelicals than Jews. He thus sought to publish his next book with a Christian publishing company to “educate young Evangelicals for the future” where emerging art forms of the 21st century are “consistent with the Jewish view that spirituality is to be found in everyday life, embedded in everything we do.”

He explained that Judaism teaches us to strive to draw spirituality down into the world and into every part of our involvement with it, our work and our social life, until not only do they not distract from our pursuit of God, but they become a full part of it.  As the younger generation is constantly looking at the world through their smartphones, he said, this tool is the natural answer to the question of how to engage the younger generation in the goal of embedding Godliness into the world.

In his new book, Alexenberg shows creative ways to use a smartphone as a magic lens that lets you see your place of work and your fellow workers in a new light.  It invites taking selfies with your spouse, parents, siblings, and children so that you see them in ways you never saw them before. You can transform your old friends into new friends by focusing through a Bible lens.  

His book is a practical guide for photographing the splendor of God by opening your eyes in wonder wherever you find yourself. Seeing with eyes of wonder is seeing for the first time every time.

10 February 2019

"Through the Bible Lens" Speaks in the Language of Digital Culture

Prof. Mel Alexenberg working in his lab/studio at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies

SPEAKS TO MILLENNIALS IN TODAY'S LANGUAGE OF DIGITAL CULTURE. It presents to all generations the most up-to-date thoughts on how The Bible gives fresh insights on the impact of new technologies on contemporary life. Christians and Jews should buy THROUGH A BIBLE LENS for themselves as well as for their children and grandchildren.

A MUST-READ BEFORE VISITING THE HOLY LAND! Learn how to share your experiences on social media and transform your smartphone photographs into biblical messages emerging from what you see. It's all in the book THROUGH A BIBLE LENS.

31 January 2019

My New Book Shows Trump's Wall through a Bible Lens


My latest book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media hot off the press from publisher HarperCollins arrived last week in Israel from Tennessee.  Nice to finally see it in print.  Thumbing through the book to see how my photographs appear in miniature matt, Trump’s wall jumped out at me.
 
The photo shows a steel wall separating the United States from Mexico where San Diego meets Tijuana at the Pacific Ocean.  In the photo is a giant ritual fringe (tzitzit) with a blue strand linking sky to sea that I had draped on the wall.  On the same page, there are photos of rope tzitzit flowing into the Pacific from a tree trunk at Washington State, and tzitzit flowing into the Atlantic Ocean from the coasts of Maine and Florida.  There are no walls at the Washington, Maine and Florida corners of USA.

When I moved from New York to accept the position as  dean of New World School of the Arts, University of Florida’s arts college in Miami, I sensed that I had come to live at one of the four corners of continental United States.  The photos in my book document my Four Wings of America environmental artwork linking the four corners of USA.  I created it for the City of Miami’s centennial celebration in 1996.  In 1996? Twenty-three years ago, Trump’s wall was already up at the southwest corner of USA.   

While working on my continent-wide artwork, I began to see the four corners of America through a Bible lens. The biblical Hebrew word kanfot used for the four “corners” of one’s garment and metaphorically as the four “corners” of the earth is the same word used for “wings.”  The preeminent biblical commentator Rashi points out the links between corners and wings, “The fringes are placed on the corners of their garments, alluding to God having freed the Israelites from Egypt, as it states, ‘and I carried you on the wings of eagles.’” It brought to mind four biblical passages.

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them that they shall make fringes on the corner wings of their garments for all generations.  And they shall include in the fringes of each corner wing a thread of sky-blue wool.” (Numbers 15:37)

Before the Israelites received the Ten Commandments, God tells Moses to say to the Israelites:

"You saw what I did in Egypt, carrying you on wings of eagles and bringing you to me.” (Exodus 19:4) 

Forty years later standing on the east bank of the Jordan River, Moses reviews the laws of the Torah for the generation born in the desert before they enter the Promised Land.  He again said:

“Make yourself fringes on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.” (Deuteronomy 22:12). 

Before donning his prayer shawl each morning, a Jew says, “May the talit spread its wings like an eagle rousing his nest, fluttering over its eaglets.”  The biblical prophecy in Isaiah 11:12 is being realized in our day:

“He will ingather the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth”

I created Four Wings of America as a visual commentary that conceptually links wings to corners of a garment and to corners of the land.  I made white rope multi-strand fringes each with a sky-blue thread to attach to the four corners of America. 

I contacted American Airlines, the largest U.S. corporation in the wing business, to request their sponsorship of my artwork.  They invited me to present my proposal.  I spread the rope tzitzit on the boardroom table to explain to the airline executives their biblical significance and why I wanted to create a visual commentary by placing them at the four corner/wings of America.  It became apparent my proposal was appreciated, when the airline’s vice-president said, “It is as if the United States is spiritually lifted up by its four corners as the blue thread of the fringes links the sea to the sky.”  They agreed to sponsor the project by flying me to the four corners of America to physically realize my spiritual metaphor. 

I attached tzitzit fringes to a swaying palm shading the beach of a balmy Florida bay and to a huge barnacle-encrusted boulder on the Maine coast. I flew to Seattle and drove to Neah Bay, an Indian reservation at the end of the Olympia Peninsula in Washington State, attached the tzitzit to a tree at the shoreline.  At the southwest corner, the tzitzit shuddered in the wind hanging from the steel wall that separates San Diego from Tijuana at the Pacific Ocean. 

My book with all fifty full-color pictures is available at Amazon and most other Internet booksellers as well as at your local bookstore.  See the book’s blog at http://throughabiblelens.blogspot.com.  

From Times of Israel, IsraelSeen, and LinkedIn  

24 January 2019

Smartphones Have the Power to Make the Bible Come Alive


"Angels Ascending from the Land of Israel" in collection of Israel Museum, Jerusalem

“He had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, its top reaching up towards heaven as Divine angels were going up and down on it.” (Genesis 28:12)
This biblical passage about Jacob’s dream inspired artist Mel Alexenberg to create the serigraph “Angels Ascending from the Land of Israel” that is in the collection of the Israel Museum.  He created this artwork at the museum’s affiliated graphics center in Jerusalem.

It shows digitized Rembrandt angels ascending from a NASA satellite image of Israel based upon the biblical commentary that the angels in Jacob’s dream go up from the Land of Israel and go down throughout the world. This serigraph morphed into the cover of his book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media with the angels emerging from the satellite image of Israel displayed on a smartphone screen.

Smartphones have the power to make the biblical account of Jacob’s dream become a digital age reality by uploading cyberangels in Israel into "The Cloud" (network of all networks) and inviting people everywhere to download them.

18 January 2019

How an Angel Led Me into the Garden of Eden


This morning, an angel led me into the Garden of Eden and I met my wife Miriam.  Other angels had done the same on other Friday mornings. 

What happen when Miriam and I found ourselves in the Garden of Eden?  We worked together cooking lunch for our Shabbat afternoon meal.  Miriam handed me the bunch of scallions that she had washed to chop into tiny discs. She rubbed the baking pan with olive oil, baked potatoes in the microwave, and gave the hot potatoes to me to slice and arrange in the pan. Listening to heavenly music from our favorite disc, we sprinkled garlic and herbs on the potatoes and spread a layer of cottage cheese that we dotted with the scallion discs and grated cheese.  Miriam covered the pan with foil as I set the oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees Centigrade.


How did we discover that the Garden of Eden was hidden our kitchen? We realized that the biblical word for “angel” malach and “food” ma’achal are written with the same four Hebrew letters to teach us that angels are spiritual messages arising from everyday life.  As Hebrew speakers living in Israel, we know that the feminine form of the word for “angel” malach is “work” malachah to tell us that spirituality can be experienced in all the meaningful work that we do. When Miriam and I work together in our kitchen preparing food, we discover that we are in the Garden of Eden like Abraham and his wife Sarah had discovered millennia ago.

How Hungary Angels Led the Patriarch Abraham to the Garden of Eden

He was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day.  Looking up, he saw three men (angels in disguise) standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them. (Genesis 18:2)  Abraham rushed back to the tent to Sarah and said, “Hurry!  Take three measures of the finest flour!  Kneed it and make rolls!” Then Abraham ran to the cattle to choose a tender and choice calf.  (Genesis 18:6, 7)

The Midrash, a compilation of two thousand years of creative narratives that elucidate the biblical text, asks why does it say “ran?”  Why doesn’t the Torah just say Abraham took a calf to grill?  The Midrash explains that Abraham ran after a calf that ran away from him into a cave. He discovered that the cave was the burial place of Adam and Eve.  At the far end of the cave, he saw intense light emanating from an opening. When he came close to the opening, he found himself standing at the entrance to the Garden of Eden.  About to enter the pristine garden, he remembered that his wife and three guests were waiting for lunch back at the tent. What should he do?  Should he trade paradise for a barbeque?

The Bible tells us that he chose to return to the tent and join his wife in making a meal for their three guests. Abraham realized that paradise is what we create with our spouse at home.  Other visions of paradise are either mirages or lies.

Enjoy life with the wife you love through all the days of your life. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

Miriam and I worked together to create paradise in our vegetarian kitchen.  Adam and Eve had a vegetarian kitchen, too.

How the Deepest Secrets of the Universe are Revealed in Jewish Ravioli

In Fragments of a Future Scroll, Rabbi Zalman Schachter tells a Hasidic tale set in Eastern Europe more than a century ago that teaches the essence of Kabbalah, the down-to-earth spiritual tradition of Judaism.  It emphasizes that spiritual mysteries can only be understood at the level of everyday life.   

Shmuel Munkes was walking down a road on his way to see his illustrious Rebbe when an elegant carriage stops.  A well-dressed dandy invites him to ride with him since he is going to see the Rebbe, too.  The dandy brags about being the son and grandson of kabbalists.  Shmuel asks this self-proclaimed kabbalist for help in deciphering a kabbalistic text of cosmic proportions that he said he had found on a scrap of paper in an old holy book:

"In the very primal beginning there was chaos—all was sundered and separate.  Grainy nuclei unconnected.  Swirling.  Then fiat, they were in one sphere.  The sphere unfolded into an orb.  On the orb-lines appeared, forces cut the space in fields.  These fields became centered in a point and enfolded the point.  Peace was made between fiery angels and the angels of the vital fluid and in their cooperation all came our as it ought to be."

The dandy expressed amazement at this mystical text that he admitted he could not place.  Shmuel explained that since he was a young student, he would have to wait weeks before the Rebbe would see him.  He said, “Since you are such an important man, you will be invited to see the Rebbe soon after you arrive in town.  Please ask the Rebbe about the text and tell me what he says.”  The dandy agrees and does get to see the Rebbe without a long wait.  The Rebbe slowly reads from the scrap of paper, closes his eyes and stares into inner places searching for the deepest meaning the text.  He opens his eyes and turns to the anxious dandy explaining the text with one word: kreplach (a Jewish version of ravioli).

 "In the very primal beginning there was chaos—all was sundered and separate, grainy nuclei unconnected swirling.” (That was flour.)  “Then fiat, they were in one sphere.” (Dough.)  “The sphere unfolded into an orb.” (The dough was rolled out flat.)  “On the orb lines appeared, forces cut the space into fields.” (Of course, diamond shaped pieces of dough are cut and meat put in.)  “The fields became centered in a point and enfolded the point. Peace was made between fiery angels and the angels of the vital fluid.”  (As the pot was filled with water and put on the stove to boil, the kreplach were put in.) “And in their cooperation all came out as it ought to be."

The Rebbe laughed when he finally saw Shmuel.  “What a dish you cooked up,” he said.

How to Fuse Heaven to Earth and Make the Mundane Rise Up to Touch the Divine

My “Shook Shopping” blog post in my book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media http://throughabiblelens.blogspot.com teaches how to you can find spirituality in everything you do.  Written in Twitter tweets, the language of today’s digital culture, it begins with our daughter Iyrit shopping in the shook (marketplace) in Israel for the ingredients to make her family’s Shabbat meals.
 
It continues with the thoughts of three of the of the 20th century’s leading spiritual leaders based upon the biblical passage “For the Lord thy God walks in the midst of your camp.” (Deuteronomy 23:15): Talmudic scholar Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, known as “The Rav” by the hundreds of rabbis he ordained at Yeshiva University in New York, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, head of Chabad Hassidism that reaches out to Jews throughout the world, and Rabbi Abraham Y. Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and author of the poetic book Orot Hakodesh (Holy Lights).

In Rabbi Soloveitchik’s seminal book Halakhic Man, he teaches that Judaism does not direct its gaze upward but downward.

It fixes its gaze upon concreate reality an every aspect of life, from the mall to the banquet hall. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that we must strive to draw spirituality down into every part of life, from our work to our social life.

A person’s work should not only not distract him from his pursuit of G-d, but they must become a full part of it.

Chief Rabbi Kook explains that the first message that Moses chose to teach the Jewish people as they were about to enter the Land of Israel was to fuse heaven to earth.

They were charged to make the mundane to rise up to touch the Divine, the spiritual to vitalize the physical, not only as individuals but as an entire nation.

From The Times of Israel, IsraelSeen, and Linkedin

01 January 2019

91 Story Torah Tower to Top Tel Aviv Skyline


 
Construction has begun on the tallest building in Israel that will tower over the other high-rise buildings shaping Tel Aviv’s skyline.  The 91 story skyscraper will grow up like a living form that expresses the spiral structure of Jewish consciousness.  It is being built by the Azrieli Group next to its well-known circular, square and triangular towers in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Dana Azrieli, chairwoman of the Azrieli Group, described the concept of the building’s architecture as an expression of values of Judaism coupled with aesthetics of nature.  She said, “We looked at a range of sources of inspiration for the design, including our history, nature, culture and values.  We looked at Jewish tradition, and we saw the Jewish people as the ‘People of the Book.’ We considered the curving shape of the megillah and the Torah, in addition to receiving inspiration from the curving lines of Tel Aviv’s strong Bauhaus tradition and the twist of a snail’s shell.”

As a biologist turned new media artist and professor of art and Jewish education, Dana Azrieli’s thoughts about life forms and Jewish tradition reflect my teaching at universities in USA and Israel. I taught “Morphodynamics: Design of Natural Systems” at Columbia and MIT and “Art in Jewish Thought” at Bar-Ilan and Ariel. 

The significance of the spiral form in both biological systems and Jewish consciousness is explored in my books: Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media (Elm Hill/HarperCollins) and The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press).  Through a Bible Lens is one of two books and 80 articles that I wrote during the six years that I have lived with my wife Miriam at Palace Ra’anana, Azrieli Group’s retirement community.

PEOPLE OF THE SPIRAL SCROLL

Jews are called am haSePheR, usually translated “People of the Book.” But SePheR is a word written in the Torah scroll itself long before the invention of codex type books contained between two covers. SePheR means spiral scroll. It is spelled SPR, the root of the word “SPiRal” in numerous languages, ancient and modern. Jews, then, are “People of the Spiral.” In kabbalah, Judaism’s down-to-earth spiritual system, the SePhiRot are emanations of divine light spiraling down into our everyday life. The English words “SPiRitual” and “inSPiRation” share the SRP root from the Latin SPiRare, to breathe.
 

In Judaism, form gives shape to content. The medium is an essential part of the message. Weekly portions of the first five books of the Bible in the form of a Torah scroll are read in synagogue. The symbolic significance of the spiral form is so strong that if a Torah scroll is not available in synagogue, the Bible is not publicly read at all. The exact same words printed in codex book form convey the wrong message. If the divine message encoded in the Torah is trapped between two rectilinear covers, it loses its life-giving flow. The Torah teaches that the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians in a malben, a brickyard.  Malben is also the Hebrew word for rectangle.   

The Torah must have the infinite flow of a Mobius strip where the final letter of the Torah, the lamed of yisraeL (Israel) connects to the first letter, the bet of B’reshit (in the beginning). Lamed bet spells the word for “heart.” The heart of the Torah is where the end connects to the beginning in an endless flow. Form and content join together to symbolize the essence of Jewish values. The Bible encoded in a flowing scroll form provides a clue as to the nature of biblical consciousness as an open-ended, living system like DNA molecules, snail shells, and the spiral growth pattern of palm fronds.

SPIRAL LADDERS AND SPIRITUAL BAR CODES

The spiral is a key symbol of Jewish culture, from tzitzit fringes to ram's horn shofar to spiral hallah bread.  Their spiral forms parallel the major life forms in nature.  The ladder in Jacob’s dream can connect spiritual and scientific viewpoints: “He had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, its top reaching up towards heaven as Divine angels were going up and down on it.” (Genesis 28:12)  Jewish tradition arrives at the spiral shape of Jacob’s ladder by noticing that the numerical value of Hebrew words for “ladder” sulam and for “spiral” slil are both 130. Creative play using numerical equivalents of Hebrew letters, a system called gematriah, can lead to fresh insights.  The spiral ladder in Jacob’s dream can be linked to the DNA spiral ladder with rungs on which codes for all forms of life are written with four words: A-T, T-A, C-G, G-C.  

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them that they shall make fringes (tzitzit) on the corner of their garments for all generations.  And they shall include in the fringes of each corner a thread of sky-blue wool.” (Numbers 15:37)  The sky-blue dye used to color the thread is derived from a spiral sea snail.   

To this day, these ritual fringes are tied to the corners of a rectangular prayer shawl.  Like the DNA spiral that spells out the code for the characteristics of all plants, animals, and human beings, each spiral fringe spells out “God is One” in a numerical bar code.  Each fringe is tied with four sets of spirals held together by five knots in a sequence of 7, 8, 11, and 13 turns (in the Ashkenazi tradition). Seven days of divine creation is followed by the eighth day in which humanity joins with God in continuing the creation. 7 + 8 = 15, the numerical equivalent of YH, the first two letters in the divine name. The numerical value of second two letters, VH, is 11. The full divine name YHVH equals 26. The fourth set of 13 turns is the numerical value of ehad, the Hebrew word for “one.” In morning prayers, Jews gather together in one hand the fringes from the four corners of our prayer shawls as we recite the shema, the central affirmation of Judaism “God is One,” while looking at the spiral tzitzit that spells out “God is One” in a numerical bar code.



I created Four Corner of America, the official artwork celebrating the Miami’s Centennial. I make large ship-rope tzitzit, colored one strand sky-blue, and placed them at the four corners of America. The tztzit on the coast of Florida and Maine reached into the Atlantic Ocean and on Washington State and California into the Pacific Ocean. The Torah not only speaks of four corners of a garment, but also about the four corner of the Earth.  The biblical word for “corner” kanfot literally means “wings.”  It was appropriate that American Airlines sponsored my art project.

JEWISH ARCHITECTURE AS LIVING SYSTEM

A Jewish structure of consciousness in architecture emphasizes temporal processes in which space is actively engaged by human community rather than presenting a harmoniously stable form in space. Architectural theorist Bruno Zevi, compares the Hebraic and Greek attitudes toward architecture in his essay on concepts of space-time shaping Hebraic consciousness in the book Bruno Zevi on Modern Architecture:   

“For the Greeks a building means a house-object or a temple-object. For the Jews it is the object-as-used, a living place or a gathering place. As a result, architecture taking its inspiration from Hellenic thought is based on colonnades, proportions, refined molding, a composite vision according to which nothing may be added or eliminated, a structure defined once and for all. An architecture taking its inspiration from Hebrew thought is the diametric opposite. It is an organic architecture, fully alive, adapted to the needs of those who dwell within, capable of growth and development, free of formalistic taboo, free of symmetry, alignments, fixed relationships between filled and empty areas, free from the dogmas of perspective, in short, an architecture whose only rule, whose only order is change.”

Theologian Thorleif Boman writes in Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek  about the dynamic action-centered Hebraic consciousness, noting that biblical passages concerned with the built environment always describe plans for construction without any description of the appearance of the finished structure. The Bible has exquisitely detailed construction instructions for the Tabernacle (mishkan) without any word picture of the appearance of the completed structure.  The mishkan was a movable, small scale structure made of modular parts and woven tapestries.  It was taken apart, packed on wagons, and moved through the desert from site to site. Its modest tent-like design and active life was quite different from the immovable marble temples of ancient Greece that still stand today.

We can see a renaissance of this ancient Hebraic consciousness in the scientific foundations of the hi-tech revolution.   Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogione explains in Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature that the traditional science of the age of the machine tended to emphasize stability, order, uniformity, equilibrium, and closed systems. The transition from an industrial society to a hi-tech society in which information and innovation are critical resources, brought forth new scientific world models that characterize today’s accelerated social change: disorder, instability, diversity, disequilibrium, nonlinear relationships, open systems, and a heightened sensitivity to the flow of time.

BUILDING STORIES

Influenced by the narrative structure of the Hebrew Bible, architect Daniel Libeskind explains that he creates buildings that tell stories. “If a building doesn’t tell a story it’s a nothing.  Every building should tell you the deeper story of why it’s there.”

Libeskind follows in the tradition of his grandfather who made his living traveling from village to village in Poland telling stories colored with Torah values. He emphasizes that his architectural sensibility is consciously Jewish, aiming at shaking people’s souls.  Architecture, he wrote, “seeks to explore the deeper order rooted not only in visible forms, but in the invisible and hidden sources which nourish culture itself, in its thought, art, literature, song and movement.”  He explores the symbolic potential of architecture through which history and tradition, memories and dreams are expressed. 

In an interview with The Jerusalem Report, Libeskind describes how his architecture expresses Jewish values that reject looking at buildings as merely material reality.

“I know that any building that I love is a building full of connections to something memorable, to something that has to do with the larger world, not just the immediate functional use.  Architecture should be able to pose questions, not just make people fall asleep and be anaesthetized, but invoke the real vitality of life, which is full of something wondrous.  It’s the Jewish value that space in not just the superficial idol that people often venerate, but that space is connected to culture, to spirit, and has great resonance in terms of tradition, the present and how it’s oriented towards new horizons.”

91 STORIES

The 91 stories the Azrieli Tower has significance in Judaism.  When the reader chants the words from a Torah scroll, he sees the unspoken divine name YHVH but reads it as Adoni. In prayer books in the Sephardi tradition, these two divine names are printed together as YHV followed by a stretched out H holding within it the word Adoni.  YHVH has the numerical value of 26 and Adoni of 65.  Together they equal 91.  The visual and spoken divine names become one.

After a prayer is recited, the congregation says amen, a Hebrew word adapted by English to affirm the truth of the prayer.  Amen has the numerical value of 91.

The word for artist oman is 91. The words for angel malach and for food ma’achal each have a numerical value of 91.  The biblical words for angel and food are written with the same four Hebrew letters to teach us the angels are spiritual messages arising from everyday life.
 
 
As an artist, I am currently collaborating with students at Emunah College School of the Arts on my Jerusalem in Israel to JerUSAlem in USA art project (http://jerusalem-usa.blogspot.com).   They are creating one-minute smartphone videos about food in Jerusalem that will be sequenced with animated cyberangels and streamed from Israel to the twelve US states that have places named “Jerusalem.”  These cyberangels are digitized Rembrandt images shown ascending from a NASA image of the Land of Israel on a smartphone screen on the cover of my Through a Bible Lens book (http://throughabiblelens.blogspot.com).

 It would be appropriate for the cyberangels to fly to the four corners of the Earth from the 53 story Azrieli Sarona Tower, the highest building in Israel, until the 91 story Spiral Tower is completed.  It will be the realization of the commentary of the eminent biblical interpreter Rashi that angels in Jacob’s dream ascend from the Land of Israel and come down throughout the world.

From The Times of Israel, Jan. 1, 2019    

12 November 2018

Interconnects Art, Creative Processes, Religion and New Media Technologies



“In Through a Bible Lens, Alexenberg offers us a magnificent and original approach that interconnects art, creative processes, religion and new media technologies. The book is an important contribution to the study of media and is a must read for anyone interested in our contemporary culture. – Dr. Lucia Leao, author of The Labyrinth of Hypermedia and The Chip and the Kaleidoscope: Studies in New Media; professor of Communications and Semiotics, Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil

08 November 2018

Cyberangels of Peace Fly from Jerusalem in Israel to JerUSAlems in USA and on to all the World


“He had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, its top reaching up towards heaven as Divine angels were going up and down on it.” (Genesis 28:12)

The preeminent biblical commentator Rashi (11th century, France) taught that the angels ascending and descending the ladder in Jacob’s dream go up from the Land of Israel and come down to earth throughout the world. 

Digital technologies give me the power to make this vision a reality by launching animated Rembrandt angels from Jerusalem in Israel to the JerUSAlems in twelve states of USA that have places named JerUSAlem and then to nations around the globe.  See http://jerusalem-USA.blogspot.com.     


I am creating international digital art events that launch cyberangels worldwide.  These events celebrate launching my new book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media that is available on Amazon.  The book’s cover above shows cyberangels ascending from a satellite photo of the Land of Israel on a smartphone screen. See http://throughabiblelens.blogspot.com.  

Cyberangels as Messengers of Peace

The biblical word for “angel” and “messenger” are one and the same in Hebrew.  Cyberangels are messengers of peace rising up from the Land of Israel and descending into each of the seventy biblical nations populated by the descendants of Noah that God “separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (Genesis 10: 5).  They convey God’s message that the nations of the world are not meant to speak one language as in the disastrous Tower of Babel episode.  Each nation has its unique and distinct voice to contribute to the grand planetary choir singing God’s praise.

Peace upon You, Angels of Peace

The Hebrew word shalom means “peace.”  It is a greeting for both coming and going.  In Israel where I live, when I see a friend approaching, I greet him by saying “shalom.”   When a guest leaves my home, I also say “shalom.”  Shalom is akin to the word shalem, meaning “wholeness,” the integration of material and spiritual realms. 

The Sabbath eve meal in a Jewish home begins with the people gathered around the table singing the traditional song Shalom Aleichem (“Peace upon You”): 

Peace upon you, ministering angels, angels of the Highest, from the King who reigns over kings, the Holy One, blessed is He.  May your coming be in peace, angels of peace…. Bless me with peace, angels of peace….  May your departure be in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Highest, from the King who reigns over kings, the Holy One, blessed is He.”

The words of the song were composed four centuries ago in the Galilee town of Tzfat (Safed) by Jews involved in exploring kabbalah, the down-to-earth spiritual tradition of Judaism.  Surprisingly, the well-known melody for the song, thought of as a centuries-old folk tune, was composed by the American composer Rabbi Israel Goldfarb in 1918 at Columbia University where he earned a degree in music education. (He studied in the same Columbia Teachers College building where I was professor of art and education in the 1970’s.)

45 years after Rabbi Goldfarb composed the music for Shalom Aleichem, he wrote: "The popularity of the melody traveled not only throughout this country but throughout the world, so that many people came to believe that the song was handed down from Mt. Sinai by Moses."  Shalom Aleichem played by the renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman creates an ethereal energy appropriate for launching cyberangels worldwide.  You can hear it at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BDaDfmBQXA

“Angel” and “food” are written with the Same Hebrew Letters  

The biblical words for “angel” and “food” are written with the same four Hebrew letters to tell us that angels are spiritual messages arising from everyday life.


The Bible (Genesis 18:1-8) relates how three angels disguised as men appeared to Abraham while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.  When he looked up and saw them a short distance from him, he ran to greet them and invited them to stay to eat.  He rushed to his wife, Sarah, and asked her to bake cakes for their guests. 

Then Abraham ran to the cattle to choose a tender, choice calf.  The Midrash, a centuries-old biblical commentary, questions why Abraham ran after the calf.  It tells that he ran after the calf because it ran away from him into a cave.  Abraham discovered that he had entered the burial place of Adam and Eve.  He was drawn to intense light emanating from an opening at the end of the cave.  As he approached, he saw the Garden of Eden through the opening. 

This deeply spiritual person, the patriarch Abraham, found himself standing at the entrance to Paradise.  About to cross over the threshold into the pristine garden, he remembered that his wife and three guests were waiting for lunch back at the tent.  What should he do?  Should he trade Paradise for a barbeque? The Bible tells us that he chose to return to the tent and join his wife in making lunch for the three strangers.  They sat together in the shade of a tree enjoying the food that Abraham and Sarah had prepared.

Angels are Spiritual Messages Arising from Everyday Life

In his review of my book, Dr. Jim Solberg, USA National Director of Bridges for Peace and author of Sinai Speaks, points out how Jews and Christians who share an abiding love of the Bible seek spirituality in everyday life.  

"Through a Bible Lens offers a unique and personal challenge to the reader to integrate Bible Study, the creation that surrounds us, and our personal experience into a “living journal.”  Dr. Alexenberg’s approach offers a fun, yes fun, path to integrate pondering the deepest questions of Scripture with modern living and a literally visual journey through life.  Written from a Jewish Torah loving perspective, this book will be a joy to any lover of the Bible, Christian or Jewish.  I not only endorse it, I look forward to integrating these ideas into my personal encounter with Scripture”

My dialogue with Dr. Solberg lead me to learn how Bridges for Peace builds relationships between Christians and Jews in Israel and around the world by merging spiritual and material realms.  The Bridges of Peace website quotes from Isaiah (58:10-11):

“If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”

Their Food Project provides over three tons of food every working day to needy people in communities throughout Israel from their food banks in Jerusalem and Karmiel, a city in the Galilee a short drive from Tzvat where the words for the song Shalom Aleichem “Peace upon You, Angels of Peace” was composed more than 400 years ago. 

From The Times of Israel and IsraelSeen