Four-Panel Parsha: Parashat Vaetchanan

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Works Cited

Panel 1

(ט) רַ֡ק הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּ֨ח אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־רָא֣וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ וּפֶן־יָס֙וּרוּ֙ מִלְּבָ֣בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּ֑יךָ וְהוֹדַעְתָּ֥ם לְבָנֶ֖יךָ וְלִבְנֵ֥י בָנֶֽיךָ׃
(9) But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live. And make them known to your children and to your children’s children:
(יב) וַיְדַבֵּ֧ר יְהֹוָ֛ה אֲלֵיכֶ֖ם מִתּ֣וֹךְ הָאֵ֑שׁ ק֤וֹל דְּבָרִים֙ אַתֶּ֣ם שֹׁמְעִ֔ים וּתְמוּנָ֛ה אֵינְכֶ֥ם רֹאִ֖ים זוּלָתִ֥י קֽוֹל׃

(12) יהוה spoke to you out of the fire; you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape—nothing but a voice.

(טו) וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּ֥ם מְאֹ֖ד לְנַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶ֑ם כִּ֣י לֹ֤א רְאִיתֶם֙ כׇּל־תְּמוּנָ֔ה בְּי֗וֹם דִּבֶּ֨ר יְהֹוָ֧ה אֲלֵיכֶ֛ם בְּחֹרֵ֖ב מִתּ֥וֹךְ הָאֵֽשׁ׃
(15) For your own sake, therefore, be most careful—since you saw no shape when יהוה spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire—
(כג) הִשָּׁמְר֣וּ לָכֶ֗ם פֶּֽן־תִּשְׁכְּחוּ֙ אֶת־בְּרִ֤ית יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹ֣הֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר כָּרַ֖ת עִמָּכֶ֑ם וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֨ם לָכֶ֥ם פֶּ֙סֶל֙ תְּמ֣וּנַת כֹּ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוְּךָ֖ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃
(23) Take care, then, not to forget the covenant that your God יהוה concluded with you, and not to make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness, against which your God יהוה has enjoined you.

Panel 2

Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," 1936, Chapter 2.

Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence...

The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity...

The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated. This holds not only for the art work but also, for instance, for a landscape which passes in review before the spectator in a movie. In the case of the art object, a most sensitive nucleus—namely, its authenticity—is interfered with whereas no natural object is vulnerable on that score. The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced. Since the historical testimony rests on the authenticity, the former, too, is jeopardized by reproduction when substantive duration ceases to matter. And what is really jeopardized when the historical testimony is affected is the authority of the object.

One might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind...

Panel 3

(יב) וַיְדַבֵּ֧ר יְהֹוָ֛ה אֲלֵיכֶ֖ם מִתּ֣וֹךְ הָאֵ֑שׁ ק֤וֹל דְּבָרִים֙ אַתֶּ֣ם שֹׁמְעִ֔ים וּתְמוּנָ֛ה אֵינְכֶ֥ם רֹאִ֖ים זוּלָתִ֥י קֽוֹל׃
(12) יהוה spoke to you out of the fire; you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape—nothing but a voice.
(ו) אָֽנֹכִ֖י֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֧ר הוֹצֵאתִ֛יךָ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם מִבֵּ֣֥ית עֲבָדִ֑͏ֽים׃
(6) I יהוה am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage:
ותמונה אינכם רואים זולתי קול. עוד דבר הפלא שלא ראיתם זולת תמונת קול ראיתם. היינו שראו תמונת צורת אותיות ע״י להבות אש:

Solely sound. Another amazing fact was that you saw nothing but the image of the sound, meaning that the people saw pictures in the shapes of letters through the tongues of fire.

זולתי קול. שתי מלות אלה מיותרות, כי כבר אמר קול דברים אתם שומעים ותמונה אינכם רואים, ומה בא ללמדנו שאמר. זולתי קול ... כי כמו ששמעו מלת אנכי ככה ראו בעיניהם אות א' ואות נ' ואות כ' ואות יו"ד בתוך האויר צורות אותיות אלה ממש, והאותיות היו של אור גדול עומדים באויר אשר על הר סיני, ומאירים באור זך ומצוחצח עד מאד לעיני כל ישראל ... וכן כל דבור ודבור, תוך כדי דבור הנשמע לאזניהם היה נראה ג"כ לעיניהם באויר עד תום כל עשרת הדברות...

Solely sound. These two words are extra/unnecessary, as it already said, "you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape," and what does it come to teach us that it [also] says, "solely sound"? ... for just as they heard the word "I," or "Anochi," they saw with their eyes the letter aleph and the letter nun and the letter chaf and the letter yud (i.e. letters that form the word Anochi)—in the air were the shapes of these very letters. The letters were made of a great light and set in the space above Mount Sinai, shining with a pure and very bright light to the eyes of all of Israel ... and so too for each of the commandments, as the utterance was made audible to their ears, it would become visible in the air to their eyes, throughout the entirety of the ten commandments...

(Translation by EE)

Panel 4

Lynda Barry, What It Is, 2008, p. 11.

‎...וְהַתּוֹרָה בַּמֶּה הָיְתָה כְתוּבָה? עַל גַּבֵּי אֵשׁ לְבָנָה בְּאֵשׁ שְׁחוֹרָה...

...How was the Torah written? It was written with letters of black fire on a surface of white fire..

Image Description: A young character lying down in the dark looks up toward backlit text, which reads, "I didn't know there were different kinds of aliveness, and two worlds contained by each other." Faded dream-like creatures populate the background and foreground, including a cephalopod with the letters "ICU2" between its eyes.

Note: "ICU2" is a recurring motif in the work of comic artist and theorist Lynda Barry.