The Jew is grasping the Torah Scroll in love and joy, which is shared by all of the desert life surrounding him. The whole painting is a song of praise to The Creator and His Torah.
The Torah is ‘a tree of life to all who grasp it, and whoever holds on to it is happy; its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all it paths are peace’. (Proverbs 3:17-18).
‘The Torah is truth, and the purpose of knowing it is to live by it.’ (Maimonides)
What symbolism is contained in Torah in the Negev?
1. The desert
I live in Be’er Sheva, City of Our Fathers and the capital city of the Negev desert. Wherever there are Jews there is Torah. Even in the Desert. Especially in the Desert. As it says (Numbers 1:1): ‘And God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert.’ Why was the Torah given in the desert? One Rabbinic interpretation is that if someone does not make himself/herself ownerless, like the desert, he/she cannot acquire the Torah.
2. Palm trees.
These majestic trees are part of my every day surroundings, so I have every opportunity to observe them all the year round.
In Judaism the palm represents peace and plenty.
The date palm is tall and straight (Song 7:8–9), and the righteous are compared to its straight trunk and evergreen foliage (Ps. 92: 13).
According to rabbinic tradition, the ‘honey’ enumerated among the seven species with which Israel is blessed (Deut. 8:8) is the honey of the date.
Like honey the Torah is very sweet to the one who can grasp some of its profound wisdom, and it is the ‘food’ which sustains the soul.
3. The dove.
The dove, as we all know, is a symbol of peace.
In the Torah, Noah released the dove to find dry land after a flood, and the dove returned carrying an olive branch, signalling that the flood had receded.
It is written in Psalms 119:165: ‘Great peace to those who love Your Torah’.
‘I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life’. (Genesis 9:13 – 15)
The rainbow has become in Jewish thought the symbol of both God’s glory as manifest in the universe and God’s faithfulness to His covenant to mankind and to the people of Israel.
It is a desert tree, commonly found in the Negev.
Of greatest importance is its use in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant. During the construction of the tabernacle, acacia wood was one material available to the Israelites. Exodus 35:24 says, ‘Everyone who had acacia wood for any part of the work brought it.’ Acacia wood was used for the poles of the ark, the ark itself, and many parts of the tabernacle.
Acacia was the main tree available during the desert journey, and its density and strength made it ideal for a structure that would endure for generations.