Parshat Behar

Acrylic on parchment, 2011

Artist: Sharon RosenZweig,  USA

First you do, then you know.

It was through drawing that I discovered that YHWH, God, was a woman. Early in our creation of The Comic Torah, which we began by readingin the depths of Leviticus in depth, we depicted the deity as a force of nature. As the weeks went by, and we grappled with the Book of Genesis, God began to remind me of my oldest brother, Larry. At nearly 7 feet’ tall, he was a big bully. In the Torah portion, pParshat Vayeira that year, Larry, with his distinctive man-spread and sardonic grin, said, “Sacrifice your beloved son to me,” and a few panel verses later added, “I’d like FRIES with that.” But in pParshat Vay’eira, when God appears to Moses in the burning bush, there was the note of seduction in the text. My pencil lines took on a few distinctive curves, and suddenly there was the suggestion of breasts. That week, my friend said, “I see you’re casting yourself as God now.” “Oh, no!” I protested, “That’s my brother Larry, as a girl!” But it was too fine a line to hold, and I asked my spouse and creative partner, Aaron, if he thought we could get away with it.

After that it was only logical that Aaron, who is African American, would play Moses, who was clearly African as well. The story became a romantic comedy, with blood. Honey, Milk, and, AKA, The Land, is the lust object, offered to everyone, but never delivered. The love triangle of described in pParshat Behar made this parsha it my first choice for this piece, which I would create for Women of the Book. It was initially unthinkable that I could play YHWH, the violent, jealous Being with impulse control issues. But work proceeded on a breakneck schedule, as we produced a 2-page full- color comic on the Torah portion each week. I became a moody bitch, angry if my husband’s script was late, punitive if he asked me for revisions after inking. I erased my own work with crazed relish. Eventually, I began to understand Her as an artist. We draw, we erase. To create, we must destroy. We do, and then we know how to do better. We come to the end., Moses dies, leaving YHWH alone in the world, and she begins again. Bereshit.

About Sharon

Sharon holds an MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she taught painting and printmaking for 10 years before becoming a cartoonist, collaborating with her husband, comedian Aaron Freeman. Their book, The Comic Torah, published by Ben Yehuda Press, is available at Sharon resides in the Chicago area.

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