The Family Abramovich: The Offered, The Parched And the Disinherited

Title:
The Family Abramovich: The Offered, The Parched And the Disinherited
Type: Oil
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches) 60/48
Year: 2005

This painting portrays the dynamics of Abraham’s extended family. His family includes his two wives Sarah and Keturah, his concubine Hagar, and his combined eight children from these three unions.

Isaac is the son of Abraham and Sarah. Ishmael is the son of Abraham and Hagar. Zimron, Yakshon, Miduh, Midian,Yishbak and Shuach are six sons that Abraham and Ketura conceived after Sarah’s death.

In the painting, Abraham’s face serves as the background. Centered on the middle of his nose is a judicial scale, whereby Abrahamic (divine?) justice is dispensed upon all his children. On his left hand side is his son Isaac who is bound and readied for sacrifice. Isaac is seen rising on the scale, relative to Ishmael, symbolizing his sacrificial ascent to G-d. On Abraham’s right hand side is Ishmael who is exiled into the desert, and is portrayed as descending on the judicial scale. He too is sacrificed, but perhaps not to G-d but to Azazel.

Sarah, Isaac’s mother, is portrayed in Abraham’s left eye. After hearing about the Akeda she is devastated. Hebrew and Yiddish words written linearly around her image play with the free associative poetics of the variations and permutations of her name. The words start out as “Sarah”, then, “Sarai”, her original name, which is then transmuted to “Shrei”, which means “scream” in Yiddish. “Shrei” is then transmuted to “Geshrey”, “a louder scream” , which is then transmuted to “Gevald”, or “Horrors of Horrors”. Underneath Sarah’s image are the opening words of the chapter detailing Sarah’s death which begins with the words, “Vayeheyu Chayei Sara”, “and this was the life of Sarah”. This directly associates Sarah’s death, due to shock, upon hearing her beloved son was to be sacrificed. Hence the intended sacrifice of Isaac, led directly to the real sacrifice of Sarah.

Abraham’s left eyebrow doubles as the saving angel who comes to Isaac’s rescue. Written upon the angel’s wings are the instructions “Do not lay thy hand on the lad, and do not harm him”. A fiery tear descends from Abraham’s left eye containing the ram which he is to substitute for Isaac’s sacrifice. Written all over Isaac are the words Isaac utters when he accompanies his father to Mount Mariah. “Father, where is the sheep that is to be offered?” When the heat is turned on, and he realizes he is that sheep, he keeps repeating the question in both Hebrew and Yiddish, and adds, “I am not joking”, using an alternative definition of his name Isaac (joke/laugh).

On the right hand side is Ishmael, thrown out to the desert to face almost certain death via thirst and dehydration prompted by Sarah’s jealous request. Ishmael’s judicial scale is thus weighted down with “Avnei Sarah”, “Sarah’s stones”. Abraham’s right eye brow doubles as the angel that saves Ishmael. Written on the angel’s wings are the comforting words to Hagar “Fear not because G-d has heard the voice of the child that is there”. The angel is seen pouring water down on Ishmael in order to quench his thirst. Portrayed in Abraham’s right eye is Hagar hanging out also pouring water from a jug to save him. Abraham sheds tears, in addition, to quench the lad’s thirst. Just like Isaac, asks “where is the sheep?” Ishmael in this painting asks, “where is the water?” He asks in Yiddish, “G-d of Abraham, please help me”. He asks in Hebrew, “Father, Why?”

A scarab is drawn on Ishmael’s leg denoting his Egyptian heritage. His mother is Egyptian, he married an Egyptian, and he settled in Egypt. Linearly surrounding Hagar in Abraham’s right eye are the words “remember that you were the stranger (Hagar) in Egypt”. This is a double meaning of the word “Hagar”, which also means “the stranger”. This implies that the treatment of Ishmael the Egyptian by Abraham and Sarah was repaid in kind to the descendants of Isaac by the descendants of Ishmael while the Israelites sojourned in Egypt.

Residing in Abraham’s teeth are his and Keturah’s six squatting children, who are small in stature and Abrahamic significance in the biblical narrative. Before Abraham dies, he sends them away with “Matunus”, “token gifts”, eastward. This is the same direction that Cain was sent to, therefore on Abraham’s lower lips are written the words, “Nuh and Nod”, “wanderers” just like Cain. Essentially they were disinherited from the Abrahamic faith and fortune. Whereas Isaac asks “where is the sheep?”, and Ishmael asks “where is the water?” the sons of Keturah ask “where is the inheritance? In the center of Abraham’s nose is Keturah the mother of these poor disinherited children, her hands stretched out, and asking in Yiddish “only token gifts for my poor children?”

Inside Abraham’s pupils are the words “Adonoi Yeereh,” “G-d will see”. This has double meaning in that it written on Abraham’s eyes which see. It is also the name of the mountain upon which Isaac was sacrificed.

The background surrounding Abraham’s nose is a mountain which is the epicenter of the Akeda, and also represents the Desert Mountain from which Ishmael was tossed down into Azazel’s desert. Written around Ishmael’s ear is his name “Ishmael”, “god will hear”, and indeed he did.

The effects of Abraham’s treatment of all his children eventually have significant ramifications down the generations, and in typical biblical style are “Mida kneged Mida”, “measure for measure”. As just one example, it should be noted that the descendants of two of Keturah’s sons, Midun and Midian, were involved in the sale of Yoseph to the Ishmaelites who bring him to Egypt, and are thus partly responsible for Isaac’s descendants’ bondage and suffering in Egypt.