The story of artist Mel Alexenberg's quest along the vibrant interface between multiple fields - art/science/technology/culture, multiple roles - artist/researcher/teacher/writer - and multiple identities - Jewish/Israeli/American/Global. His artwork and writing are presented here.
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
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
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
Enjoy life with the wife you love through all the days of
your life. (Ecclesiastes
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
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:
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).
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 Mediahttp://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
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 OrotHakodesh (Holy
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