The umbilical cord of my omphalos winds its way back in time to the blessings of my mother and father, but also inwards and outside-of-time, stretching into a womb land that is all myth and dream and imagination. With some effort I can follow my way back into this makom, this space and hopefully return from it with something useful — or at least, interesting — and not just to myself mind you. I do love sharing these thoughts, but I am also interested in their relevance, by which I mean, their utility. Let me explain.
I was having a conversation with a mathematician, Yaakov, at the University of Maryland recently, and he was struggling with aesthetic questions on what is good or bad art, so I suggested an alternative more useful question as rather, “what is this art good for?” recalling Marcel Duchamp’s 1957 essay, The Creative Act:
On this trip, I had the pleasure of sharing a day trip between D.C. and N.Y.C. with a friend of an acquaintance. As it happens, by which I mean, by the tender coincidences blessed upon me in the happenstance of creation, this fellow, Eli K-W, also happens to love Jewish myth and has lately been quite active reinventing biblical aggadah (stories) in the medium of shadow puppetry. We successfully navigated to the city using an exegetical reading of signage along U.S. 1 until we reached the New Jersey Turnpike and the Lincoln Tunnel. In between miraculous cell phone retrievals from our car’s roof after an hour of hard driving and a lovely afternoon with my grandfather’s youngest brother and his wife in Yardley, Eli and I also shared our thoughts on yiddishkeit and talked about the Leviatan (the Leviathan).
UPDATE 6/5: It is something of a testament to my interest [...]
Here is one more attempt at trying to explicate the mystery of Leviathan and Behemoth. This is a work in progress, but for those among you interested in myth and esoterica and/or Judaism, you may forgive its rough edges. Writing this took me most of yesterday evening and much of the morning, a work that’s been percolating in my mind for about a year now. Thanks to Joanna Drusin for initially requesting this d’var torah in writing.
This essay is somewhat unapologetically anachronistic, by which I mean, I’m taking the myth and context of multiple traditions and using them to understand the meaning of related myths in another early or later tradition. In doing so, this d’var is creative and while not totally devoid of insight, should not be taken as a surrogate for a sophisticated academic reading of the sources. With this warning, onwards.
From Midrash Konen, 25: