Dancing Letters are made from a commercial crafts clay called Sculpy. The soft shapes are hardened by oven baking. Each letter is made initially from a small hand rolled ball of clay. This ball is to imitate the description of what the Almighty Creator did in order to create the world. We are taught that He withdrew himself into a great ‘Tzimtzum’, or contraction, a point.
Then the identically sized balls of clay are hand rolled between two hands to make clay pipes, that look like minature string beans. This second step is based on what the Zohar, the Holy Sacred book of hidden Torah, or Kabbalah, describes as Lines of Light. >From these lines, vessels, or in this case letters, are created. Each letter’s limbs are fashioned from the center. After the actual letter is created in the image of itself, as we see in its written form in Torah, its limbs are wrapped, twisted, tucked, and extended in new directions. However, they are not stretched beyond their basic letter’s dimensions. Just as dancers can take different poses, their limbs cannot go beyond their body’s natural design.
Making the Dancing Letters is an exploration I have been doing to become better familiar with the ‘hidden’ creative energies, capacities, tendencies and talents that each letter has in the world. It being said, that all of existence is animated and maintained by HaShem’s presence in each holy letter, by which things are named. The Names of letters themselves and their design, are living vessels of life. Words are the ever changing relationship between them. Sentances then in Torah, are entire stories beyond what they literally say. There is a sacred dance we can witness by knowing the talents and purpose of each letter.
I chose for this exhibit, an exploration of the letters Bet and Lamed . We are taught that the end is concealed or ‘wedged’ in the beginning. The first letter of Torah is Bet, from Bereishis (Creation), and the last letter of the Torah is Lamed concluding the word Yisroel (Israel). Why does the beginning of creation end with the name Yisroel ? Our sages teach that the Torah was created before the world, and that the world was created to house the Torah. B’nai Yisroel (Bet and Lamed), the children of Israel, agreed at Har Sinai to live by the holy words of the Creator in order to repair the world to its perfection.
Bet, The 2nd letter of the alphabet, is a container. We are each a holy vessel or container, a Holy HaMikdash. Just as the temple is a place of honoring HaShem, so too our lives can show honor to Hakodesh Baruch Hu, the Holy One Blessed be He. In fact, each one of us is a vessel that receives the “Bracha’s “(blessings) from HaShem.
Lamed, the 12th and middle letter of the Alef -Beis is the teacher, and is likened to a tower flying in the air. Rabbi Akiva taught that two Lameds facing each other reveals the shape of our hearts. The hebrew word for heart, lev, suggests that Torah can show us how to hold even opposites as one; that love brings unity in life. Torah, symbolized by Lamed, suggests that in our physical world (Bet), the world of duality, there is wholeness. That from our first to last breath, HaShem’s love and wisdom, can and will guide us. Letter by letter, the words of the Torah teach us this is so. This is the beautiful dance of creation we are each part of, the divine dance of the letters.
Zohara Meyerhoff Hieronimus 2004