Parshat Naso

Gouache and gold leaf on parchment, 2010

Artist: Siona Benjamin,  India/USA

“Isha” is a character from Parashat Naso (Numbers 5:11) and is my midrashic interpretation of woman wronged. I am addressing the plight of the Sotah, the woman who has been accused of adultery and is put to trial by a court of men who oblige her to drink a potion that will reveal her guilt or innocence. Isha emerges triumphant as the tests she endures prove her strength and infinite endurance. Isha was tried before a panel of male judges and humiliated. Was she an adulteress? Men were not judged with suspicion during those times. Who wrote this book? This chapter? This authority over women? Ultimately, she is unscathed, unblemished, untouched. Her soul remains in tact and will not be destroyed by the judgments, be they false or true. She is the owner of her body and her soul and she will endure after drinking the muddy waters. Her fertile womb is symbolized by the red vibrant circle in which she is encased. She becomes grounded like a tree, planted firmly in the ground and with many branch-like arms she grows the tendrils of her learning and her wisdom. Holding up a golden crescent moon bowl, she collects the drops of the muddy waters of her trial and through a sieve purifies them.

About Siona 

Siona Benjamin is a painter originally from Bombay, now living in the US.  Her work reflects her background of being brought up Jewish in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim India. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and Art in America. Siona was a Fulbright Fellow in 2011-2012. She has an MFA in painting and an MFA in Theater Set Design.


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