Othyot medium
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Othyoth (letters)                                    

The Tablets of the Law, a crucial image in this series, now emerge in regal but crumbling splendor. The executioners of the Holocaust have violated one of its central tenets: "Thou shaltl not murder." In that universe of destruction, the Ten Commandments have lost their coherence. Its letters fly from their mooring, floating freely above the barren terrain below. A golden aleph,, glowing with celestial radiance, crowns the painting but nothing is truly whole. The letters are detached from their original sequence, while the solitary aleph, , reminds us that half of the divine name, "El," , is missing.

The source of the discordant visual force of these disintegrating ethical imperatives is implicit in the language of Exodus itself, which with uncanny portent forecasts through its imagery the unforeseen fate of the Jewish people at the hands of the Germans:

Now Mount Sinai smoked all over, since YHWH had come down upon it in fire; its smoke went up like a furnace, and all of the mountain trembled exceedingly. (Exodus 19:18)

Bak refuses to discard the tradition of law that has sustained the Jewish people throughout its many ordeals; but he knows that he unholy fires of Auschwitz and the other deathcamps have consumed more than the bodies of their victims. An entire structure of belief must be scrutinized anew, as if the stable iconography that once held a community together had to be redesigned to include the volatile shock of mass murder.