Sunday, June 07, 2009

"The First Meaning" John Bonanno, 1999, Acrylic on Paper, 2 3/8" X 4 1/4", $100

"The Red Robe" John Bonanno, 1999, acrylic on card paper, 4 1/4" X 6 1/2", $200

On Interpretation of Scripture and the Limits of a Literal Reading
(Or, Using Kabbalah to Clarify the Way to Understanding)

Rabbi Shim'on said,
"Woe to the human being who says
that Torah presents mere stories and ordinary words!
If so, we could compose a Torah right now with ordinary words
and better than all of them!
To present matters of the world?
Even rulers of the world possess words more sublime.
If so, let us follow them and make a Torah out of them!
Ah, but all the words of Torah are sublime words, sublime secrets!

"Come and see:
The world above and the world below are perfectly balanced:
Israel below, the angels above.
Of the angels it is written:
'He makes His angels spirits'
(Psalms 104:4).
But when they descend, they put on the garment of this world.
If they did not put on a garment befitting this world
they could not endure in this world
and the world could not endure them.

If this is so with the angels, how much more so with Torah
who created them and all the worlds
and for whose sake they all exist!
In descending to this world,
if she did not put on the garments of this world
the world could not endure.

"So this story of Torah is the garment of Torah.
Whoever thinks that the garment is the real Torah
and not something else—
may his spirit deflate!
He will have no portion in the world that is coming.
That is why David said:
'Open my eyes, so I can see wonders out of your Torah,'
what is under the garment of Torah.

"Come and see: There is a garment visible to all.
When those fools see someone in a good-looking garment
they look no further.
But the essence of the garment is the body;
the essence of the body is the soul.

"So it is with Torah.
She has a body: the commandments of Torah,
called 'the embodiment of Torah.'
This body is clothed in garments: the stories of this world.
Fools of the world look only at that garment, the story of Torah;
they know nothing more.
The do not look at what is under that garment.
Those who know more do not look at the garment,
but rather at the body under that garment,
The wise ones, servants of the King on high,
those who stood at Mount Sinai,
look only at the soul, root of all, real Torah.
In the time to come, they are destined to look at the soul of the soul of Torah.

"Come and see: So it is above.
There is garment, body, soul, and soul of soul.
The heavens and their host are the garment.
The Communion of Israel is the body,
who receives the soul, Beauty of Israel.
So she is the body of the soul.
The soul we have mentioned is Beauty fo Israel, real Torah.
The soul of the soul is the Holy Ancient One.
All is connected, this one to that one.

"Woe to the wicked who say that Torah is merely a story!
They look at this garment and no further.
Happy are the righteous who look at Torah properly!
As wine must sit in a jar, so Torah must sit in this garment.
So look only at what is under the garment.
All those words and all those stories are garments."-Zohar 3:152a

PaRDeS "Paradise"

"...Moses de Leon employed this highly suggestive term, so rich in shades of meaning, as a cipher for the four levels of interpretation. Each consonant of the word PaRDeS denotes one of the levels: P stands for peshat, the literal meaning, R for remez, the allegorical meaning, D for derasha, the Talmudic and Aggadic interpretation, S for sod, the mystical meaning."-Gershom Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism

"..the Bible must be understood on many different levels simultaneously. Certainly one level can be taught as simple stories to children. But many other levels exist at the same time. Jewish mystics have long regarded the Bible as manifesting four different yet simultaneous levels of meaning. These are the plain meaning, the symbolic meaning, the allegorical meaning, and the esoteric meaning. For example, the Bible's opening phrase, "In the beginning", must be understood on each of these four levels to fully comprehend its divine message. Interestingly, some Kabbalists have said that only through understanding the deepest, esoteric strata of the Bible can we come to an accurate understanding of even its plain level-that we must "work backwards", in a sense, in biblical interpretation."-David Sheinkin, M.D., Path of the Kabbalah

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