Photographer Lloyd Wolf’s daughter, Emma Sky Wolf, has always constructed elaborate Halloween costumes. This photograph, taken when Emma was nine years old, grew out of her desire to be “some kind of Priestess Goddess thing” for Halloween. Emma, whose Hebrew name is BaShamayim (“in the heavens”), decided to be the Shekhina, the feminine aspect of God, and father and daughter created the colorful, intricate costume together. The photograph, one of a series, was taken at a swamp in Arlington, Virginia, chosen for its “wild” feel.
“Eliyahu’s tongue enters the mouth of the Shekhina.” In the photographer’s concept, derived from texts of the Zohar that appear in the Friday evening service, the prophet Eliyahu will go forth to meet the Shekhina, symbolically enacting the Jewish people’s union with God and the Sabbath. The words written on the photo, “All Kingdoms of Anger, All Dominions of Harsh Judgement Flee from Her Presence,” also from the Friday evening service, have always resonated for Wolf. To him they hold the promise of Shabbat: upon its arrival, the demons of the work week will vanish. Wolf added the words “breaking and keeping the commandments” to reflect the contradiction between the prohibition of visually depicting God and the love of Shabbat reflected in the image.
The original photograph, along with other work by Wolf, can be seen at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. His book of photos and interviews entitled Jewish Mothers: Strength, Wisdom, Compassion, with interviews by Paula Ethel Wolfson, was published this year (Chronicle Books).