Blessing upon Encountering Beauty She’kakha lo b’olamo
January 6, 2021
The artwork I share with you today is my visual prayer.
In the creation of this piece I experimented with a variety of shapes that symbolize balance, beauty, and lifeforce in nature. I landed on the spiral of the nautilus, a shell that has captured my imagination since childhood. The nautilus is considered a sacred geometric shape because it conforms to the shape of the Golden ratio, or “divine proportion” and because it manifests in countless forms in nature (the shape of our galaxy, hurricanes, many flowers including sunflowers, and the arrangement of their seeds…just to name a few.)
The triangular formations, inspired by a Zen Tangle design I learned from artist Mindy Shapiro, represent grass, leaves and rock formations. The energy of the triangles builds through the spiral in a rainbow.
The yellow sparks of light represent a cosmic explosion emanating from or coinciding with the nautilus, expressing the boundless energy and wonders of nature.
The Hebrew in this artwork is the traditional blessing said upon encountering “small” beautiful things (there are other blessings for large beautiful things like mountains), as outlined in the Talmud Berakhot 58b,
... רָאָה בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת, וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת, אוֹמֵר: ״בָּרוּךְ … שֶׁכָּכָה לוֹ בְּעוֹלָמוֹ״.
Baruch...she kacha loh b’olamoh.
The Sages taught,
One who saw beautiful or otherwise outstanding creatures or beautiful trees recites: Blessed is the One Who has such things in His world.
For the English translation I took gender out of the equation, and brought the subject of beauty front and center:
"Blessed are You, Source of All Life, Who fills the world with Beauty."
It is fitting to express a blessing for beauty through calligraphy as the word calligraphy, coming from the Greek words kallos– beauty, and graphein– write, means “beautiful writing”.
Why is beauty important?
Sandra Lubarsky, who writes on beauty and sustainability and advocates for the revival of beauty as a public value, and who commissioned this artwork for her niece’s graduation from rabbinical school, says “In this time of the great disruptions brought on by the coronavirus, the practice of beauty keeps us centered on the ultimate importance and worth of the world in which we live.” Her brief and worthwhile article here expresses the power of beauty in our lives.