How fascinating that the Sanctuary, said to be the source of all the G-dly light in the world, should have been designed by Bezalel, whose name means “in the shadow of G-d.”
For nearly two thousand years, this was considered too dangerous a path to be publicly taught or tread. It was far safer for the masses to follow rules set down by governments and organized religions, without dealing with the “shadow” within. In this context, people ignored, denied, or labeled as evil the darker crevices of their soul. Darkness was defined as a force opposed to light. It was considered a deficit that was best left unexplored.
As long as society at large was driven by rules, and higher consciousness was not a primary value for the average person, this worked. In time, however, pretending the shadow did not exist, or crushing the impulses motivating one to violate rules, no longer sufficed. The Zohar, expressing a gradually unfolding messianic consciousness, invites us to reapproach the shadow with the hope of unblocking and reclaiming the light hidden therein.
This is the way of the dragon. The goal changed from slaying the dragon to befriending the dragon. The imagery of the dragon is common to classic folktales. But notice the different methods employed by the men and women to subjugate dragons, monsters and ogres; heroes and princes vanquish and kill the dragon, while heroines and princesses kiss the beast and it is transformed into a handsome prince.
The difference is quite extraordinary. In the first approach, the shadow energy needs to be destroyed. Since it is uncomfortable to talk about our own darkness, we project it onto the dragon, but it is understood that we are really talking about ourselves. Our dragons—the dark and negative forces within ourselves need to be crushed.
The princess, on the other hand, understands that there is another way. Rather than destroy, she seeks to transform the darkness into light; by an act of love the beast is not slain, but transformed into a prince. The princess in our holy sources is the feminine expression of divinity that inheres within the individual human being and suffuses the world. R. Nachman, borrowing an image from the holy folk stories of his day actually concretizes this feminine Shekhina energy in the figure of “The Lost Princess,” the heroine in one of his most beautiful tales.
The power of this love may be understood by observing the artist who succeeds to uncover beauty, music and light in the ugly, discordant and dark. Consider Bezalel, the Biblical craftsman and artist who fashioned the sanctuary and its utensils which were later transferred to Solomon’s temple. How fascinating that the Sanctuary, said to be the source of all the G-dly light in the world, should have been designed by Bezalel, whose name means “in the shadow of G-d.”
More interesting yet is that the mystics interpret the name Bezalel to mean, “in the shadow is G-d.” Artists with their stained hands know how to touch the dark places. They are the disciples of Bezalel, versed in the ways of darkness. Theirs are not the white palms that flee the darkness and avoid the depths. The brilliant flower with her delicate, painted petals grows out of the dark soil, nourished by worms, debris, and decay. And diamonds are black coal made beautiful by intensity and pressure.
Artists with their stained hands know how to touch the dark places. They are the disciples of Bezalel, versed in the ways of darkness. Theirs are not the white palms that flee the darkness and avoid the depths.
Artists create from their own shadows. The kabbalists teach that we are all artists of our own lives, engaged in the ultimate sacred act of self-creation. Nietzsche correctly intuited a core biblical idea when he said, “The artist becomes the work of art.” Life is self-creation, the painting of our destiny on the canvas of our fate.
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