Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Time and the month of Elul

One of the courses I took on retreat was about time and art. We studied various biblical and talmudic verses. We talked about linear and circular time.  We are in the Jewish month of Elul now, which is the month before the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashanah).  This is a time of reflection, meditation and looking inward so that we forgive ourselves our imperfections, ask all those in our lives for forgiveness in case we have wronged them, and pray with the intention to do our best in the future.  We listen to others with compassion, try to stay in the present moment and try to understand who we are and where we are going. This is also called "cheshbon ha-nefesh" which is the Hebrew for a spiritual accounting.

I listened to the meditation from the teacher on the last day of class and visualized the Hebrew letters going vertically that spell out the tetragrammaton, the unpronounceable word for God (there are various pronunciations now).  She talked about colors going up and they were the rainbow colors I learned in Biology 101, ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).  I didn't have all the right crayon colors with me so I approximated the colors for the letters.

Psalm 27 is read every day during this month.  It seemed appropriate for the visualization.

I am a visual artist. I paint what I see (with some adaptation for composition, color etc.).  I found this class very difficult.  We were talking about a non-visual concept (time).  I brought watercolors with me as I found that easier to transport than my acrylics.  I visualized a sunrise, mountain, river for Genesis (creation story) and put the Hebrew words on the mountain from the morning liturgy (Blessed is the One who spoke and the world came into being).  The bottom words (English) are also from the morning (daily) liturgy.  We had spoken in class about our traditions regarding both birth and death and the hevra kadisha (holy burial society). I have written about that on this blog several years ago. So this painting was about beginnings and endings (circular time).

We also looked at Dali's paintings and Monet's treatment of light changing during the day on his haystack paintings.  I prefer to paint what I see so I'm not sure I would take a class like this again, but it was interesting.  My morning class was an introduction to the Qu'ran (Koran). That was fascinating and I hope to continue to learn more on this subject.

If you are interested in a Jewish retreat next year, this group (about 300 people) is usually the first week of August.  You can find out more information at http://havurah.org/

The theme of the retreat was from Psalm 90 - notice my artwork on the right.  I have had this phrase on my blog from the very beginning in 2008. I've also posted a poem about Elul. The poem was posted 8/27/08. I'm hoping this link will work for you: http://avisiblevoice.blogspot.com/2008/08/first-of-elul-september-1st-this-year.html