Hebrew Illuminations

Hebrew Illuminations

by Adam Rhine with Louise Temple

Hebrew IlluminationsMuch like medieval illuminated manuscripts that honor the divine, artist Adam Rhine has created watercolor paintings that become Jewish mandalas in Hebrew Illuminations.  Rhine designed the mandalas — one for each of the 22 traditional Hebrew letters — as well as a mystical Magen David (Shield of David) series.

In addition, the Hebrew letters of the alphabet also have a numerical equivalent.  This is called Gematria.  It is interesting in that, in the foreword by Rabbi David Zeller, it is  pointed out that “‘Love,’ Ahava, equals 13. ‘One,’ Echad, also equals 13.  But one person cannot love without another person to love.  And when we add up ‘love’ plus ‘love,’ or ‘one’ plus ‘one,’ we get 26 — which is the gematria, the numerical equivalence, for the four letter name of G-d, the ultimate representative of Love and Oneness.”

These mandalas are lovely enough to be framed, and perhaps in one case to bless a house: The second letter Beit, for example, represents a house or a home.  “The value ofbeit is two, reminding us that the world is comprised of pairs: man and woman, day and night, holy and secular…May we find comfort and blessings in the place we call home, and find that which makes us complete and at peace.”  The accompanying watercolor is one of swirls and bright colors, with lush red roses in the background.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the Magen David series.  One, Gan Eden, depicts the Garden of Eden.  This painting attempts to “capture the pure and enclosed, whole, and holy environment from which humankind was banished, only to work on being worthy enough to return.”  The painting consists of soothing blues and greens, with ivy leaves and other symbols of growth.  And, throughout, this book illustrates the alphabet and Star of David to be, not stagnant, but alive with color, motion and meaning.

The Hanukkhah mandala is gorgeous, yet simple — “the menorah fully lighted at the bottom of the star, while the shammus, the center candle, is high above (just as it serves to light the other candles), projecting its light downward across the design.”

This is a wonderful coffee table book that will most definitely turn into a gift book.  By this I mean I had a Jewish friend visiting last weekend who noticed this on the coffee table.  After enough oooohing and ahhhhing by her, I did feel compelled to gift her with the book!  You may feel the urge to do the same with your friends, especially with the winter holidays around the corner.

Hebrew Illuminations
by Adam Rhine with Louise Temple
Sounds True, 200699 pp., $29.95

Review by Diane Saarinen

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