By Harriet P. Gross
Do you know that some colors have special meanings in Judaism? Well, I didn’t, either, until Chana Bracha Siegelbaum of Israel made a local stop to tell a group of women about them.
Her presentation, “The Torah Way of Colors,” is typical of what’s taught and learned at Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin (Wellsprings of Jewish Learning), the center of holistic Torah education Rebbetzin Siegelbaum founded a dozen years ago southwest of Jerusalem. She began with a quote from the Zohar: “Come and see. There are colors which are seen, and there are colors which are not seen.”
White, she said, is the color of Abraham, whose element is the water that spreads out without boundaries, just as he reached out with hospitality for all. White evokes chesed, kindness and purity and innocence; it is the color that serves all others.
Isaac’s color is red and his element is fire, symbolic of severity and strength — like someone with fire burning within him, someone willing to give himself up as a sacrifice. This is the color of gevura, power.
Air’s color, green, belongs to Jacob, balanced between solid ground and his wrestling angel. Air, which holds within itself both water and fire, represents the balance and splendor — tiferet — of the world.
So our Patriarchs possessed traits corresponding to the three foundational elements of earth. But the earth itself — ah, said Rebbetzin Siegelbaum, that is the ultimate, the end, the purpose, the goal of all. Earth’s color is the blue of royalty, the shade of the sky at night just before the stars come out. And the possessor of that blue is David.
“Blue calms us,” she said. “But all colors influence the way we think and feel. If you are nervous, stay away from red. If you can’t make decisions, white is clarifying. Green is nourishing and healing; it equals growth — but if you are angry, pull weeds! Color can heal. Color is light, and light is the manifestation of creation….
“With our limited vision, we see just a small part of the color spectrum. But HaShem opens our eyes. The Zohar talks of colors that can be seen and not seen. Sometimes we don’t even see the ones that can be seen. But to Moses, all the colors were revealed.” She likened this revelation to the super-sensory experience of being able to see sounds and hear colors: “Our Fathers saw the colors that are seen, but only Moses saw the ones that are not seen.”
Her conclusion: “We should appreciate what God gave us, be aware and be tolerant of others who wear different colors, so that we become a rainbow that gives HaShem’s life back into the world. When we can see the colors that are seen, maybe we’ll even get a glimpse of the colors that are not seen.”
The appropriate way to follow up this lesson was with a colorful mini-fashion show, and here were designs by Tzniut from the custom-made collection of Neshama Gabay, who came from San Antonio to present them. There were a few long dresses and skirts, but mainly head coverings — pashmina shawls and scarves, crocheted caps in a Joseph’s coat array of hues embellished with beaded floral motifs, snoods of shimmering woven fabrics, hats of midnight velvet with a sparkle that inspired one woman to title the entire display “Jewish bling!” Fifty percent of everything sold was donated to the Rebbetzin’s school, which is currently raising funds to build permanent buildings, comfortable quarters for women of all ages who want to attend its seminars, tend its gardens and take advantage of creative art and music opportunities.
Midreshet B’erot Ayin’s programs are not for Israeli women only; in just a few weeks, Dallasite Alyssa Harris, who has worked as a chef and food stylist, will be going to Israel to study there. She first learned about Rebbetzin Siegelbaum’s efforts during her local studies with Rav Hanan Schlesinger of the Community Kollel.
“I’m from an unaffiliated secular background,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in yoga and meditation, and have been seeking spirituality. This seems a good fit.”
Fittingly enough, Ms. Harris was wearing a long skirt of many colors that seemed to echo the words the soft-voiced Israeli visitor brought to her rapt American audience: “The colors in our eyes are white, black, blue, brown, green, even red — the blood in the veins that run through them.” The rebbetzin herself wore, as she always does, her favorite sky blue, the royal color of lofty purpose on earth.
By Harriet P. Gross