Lev Thury's Show THE TREE OF LIFE in
Judah L. Magnes Museum
The design on the other side of this poster is known as the
Tree of Life. Students of the Kabbala have called it Sefirot.
They invented it they made use of it as a tool to understand
and to transmit that understanding, they have never stopped
interpreting it. It is at the same time a visual reminder of
God, of the world He created as His manifestation, as well as
of the process of Creation itself.
Our people have studied this system for centuries. Their
purpose was to understand and explain the hidden meaning of
Kabbala, and the study of Kabbala was never as desirable as in
times of extreme danger to Jewish communities. Kabbala has
helped our people to comprehend the incomprehensible.
What has helped me to understand have been the perceptions
of my eyes and the work of my hands. Only with the help of my
eyes and hands have I been able to grasp something of the
What I have learned is that a purely intellectual pursuit of
Kabbala is to abstract. I find reason and logic stark and
gaunt when contrasted with the richness and complexity of
reality. True reality, however, is a mix of reality and how an
individual perceives it.
Theory and experience together make up an organic whole. It
is the same way with the clay potters use: The raw material
and the will to shape it make up the sculpture.
In the Sefirot, we have a system of oscillating balances
instead of symmetries. Action is always reciprocal, especially
those directly opposed to each other.
According to rabbinical tradition, God uses both mercy
(Hesed) and reason (Gevurah) in making judgments. If He used
only mercy, we would all be proven guilty because only the
guilty need mercy. If he was to use only reason, again we
would be proven guilty because guilty we are.
In my profession, I try to achieve an eguilibrium between
emotion and reason by making sculptures. My inner turmoil
promts me to sculpt, and my sculptures allow me to earn a
living and to maintain my turmoil.
It seems to me that Kabbala teaches us that we should
perceive the balances implicit in the realities that face us.
For instance, we have reasons to be frightened by the
explosive uncertainty that confronts us now in Eastern Europe.
However, being aware of the play of balances, we may feel
confident in our ability to survive such conflicts.
As an artist, I would like to draw your attention to one
aspect of the Sefirot which some of you may find surprising in
view of what is known of traditional Jewish indifference to
esthetic considerations. In the drawings of the Tree of Life,
the center is the divine emanation of beauty (Tiferet). Beauty
is perceived as the vessel of utmost balance, and it is the
only emanation that is linked to every other emanation.
Please remember: Beauty is central.