A Time to Tear Down and a Time to Build

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The process of designing this piece of 3D art, like the maze you see before you, had its own twists and turns, false starts, anguish, struggles and triumphs. Before creating the current design, I designed two other completely different paper cuts, only to shelve each of them, because the graphics seemed too complex for the sculpture’s intended message: There is a time to tear down and a time to build.
After much teeth gnashing and introspection, I had a vision: A Torah; on its parchment was a maze instead of words. From that vision came the final concept you see here.

The piece consists of a white shell and a yellow core. Both are supported from above, the circle above representing the wholeness of God’s truth. However we cannot ever completely know God’s truth: we can only try to approximate it by throwing out old constructs of how the world works and proposing different and better (temporary) constructs which can account for the new information that the world and universe throw at us.

The inscription on the twirling yellow core reads first from Kohelet and then my application of this concept:

‎עת לפרוץ ועת לבנות: הדרך קדימה תלויה לא בתשובות אלא בשאילת שאלות טובות יותר

Which translates to;
A time to tear down and a time to build up: The way forward depends not on answers but on asking better questions.

The large white paper cut maze surrounding the yellow core provides the space for the process of moving forward. It envelops but does not strangle. It protects, yet allows for movement. It is a metaphor for any dynamic relationship, including our covenant with God.

The maze has tsitsiyot at its four corners: Just as we embrace the Yoke of Heaven when we put on the Tallit, we embrace the process of struggle and daring to ask questions, knowing full well that we must discard them later for the sake of our addiction to and love of the search for Truth. It is a process that goes around and around, yet never comes back to the same place.

A Tallit is a garment made of woven threads. Yet the space between the threads is as important to the garment as the threads themselves. If woven too tightly, the garment cannot breathe; woven too loosely, the garment cannot protect. Even as we need laws, boundaries, structure and continuity, we also need space to experiment and fail. We accept this paradox as part of our living a Torah-committed life and even as part of our covenant and conversation with God.

The spaces and relationships that this process engenders are very specific and unique to each individual. The greater the specificity, the higher level of holiness. The process itself is a gem that each of us holds close to our heart. It is so precious that, in order to preserve it, our teacher Moses was willing to destroy the first set of Tablets at Mount Sinai. It is a process, therefore, that is far from being futile – far from Hevel.

May we each merit the ability to ask clearer and more defining questions each and every day of our lives.

Jonathan Lyon, Artist
Hand cut with Exacto-knife
February, 2022

Materials: handmade mulberry paper by Tut Neyar, Zichron Yaakov, tsitsiyot, wood, fishing line, wire, metal chain, hot glue
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My Profile: The Gemara says that all of our constructs and paradigms exist as a result of suppressing information. From chaos, the sum potential of all that is possible - physicists call it white noise; statisticians call it raw data - we must push away that which is unwanted. We are left to work with our visions and patterns of reality. The big question is, how well do those visions match up to what reality actually is in all its inter-related complexity and detail. On Yom Kippur, we come face to face with the reality that "The hidden things belong to HaShem our God, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, that we might fulfill all the words of this Torah." (Deuteronomy 29:28). God's ultimate and uncompromising reality must hold us accountable even for paradigms we are NOT aware of! Many refer to this as "The law of unintended consequences." This is why what I hold dear is not answers, but an endless path of growing awareness that attempts to come closer and closer to reality as it really is - not the "reality" that is just a projection of some inner solipsistic construction within my brain. The questions- not the answers - lead me on that path. I have become deeply committed to a life long journey of learning, growth, change, love, discernment, service, play, commitment, questioning, and valuing disagreement. At my core is the notion that without self-doubt and without valuing difference and differing opinions, one cannot develop a fulfilling and meaningful life. My art starts as a white sheet of whole paper, which represents chaos - all the possible pictures that one could create on it - onto which I impose order. Simultaneously destructive and defining, my paper-cutting adds meaning to the paper. Cutting pieces out is a creative process that graphically reveals before me my deeper paradigms so that I can scrutinize them - so that I can better understand the limits and characteristics of the space in which those paradigms work and gain insight as to where they are no longer valid. But it is not just a discovery of my internal landscapes. It is a process of becoming aware of myself within relationship and covenant. It is my simultaneous love and awe of and participation in the splendor of God's continued creation. It is my Avoda.

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