Friday, June 7, 2013

The Accusation - Right Panel of The (In)humanity Triptych

"The Accusation” raises the question of the responsibility for human atrocities and suffering.
In the Book of Esther, Esther accuses the wicked Haman of plotting to destroy the Jewish people. Here, two prisoners in a European ghetto, dressed in the costumes of Esther and Ahasuerus on Purim, accuse us (the viewer) and point to our personal responsibility for the human suffering brought on by humanity’s inhumanity. Perhaps Esther, by pointing outside the frame of the painting, is also accusing God.


I have utilized a triptych, a typically Christian device, for several reasons—as I will later explain the triad has, for me, a specifically Kabbalistic significance. However, I also believe that the Christian biblical narrative must be resignified after the Holocaust. In this triptych I am focusing upon the six million who suffered unspeakable physical, mental and spiritual agonies and had their humanity deconstructed for the simple reason that they were Jews. Thus the painting  “The Sacrifice,” which references  the death of the six million in the crematoria, is in the central position that might normally be occupied by Christ on the Cross. Adam and Eve, are in the place of Mary—we see the suffering of the mother and father of all humankind, as they see their progeny incinerated. Finally, Queen Esther (a Jew) and Ahasuerus (a non-Jew)  call upon us to assume ethical responsibility for human suffering.

I am presently contemplating the significance of horror, compassion and responsibility for the theory and practice of psychology. After completing the paintings I have also considered the apparently different roles of men and women in this sequence. This is a topic worthy of further thought and discussion.

From a Kabbalistic perspective, the paintings traverse the dynamic of Shevirah (rupture), Kellipah (husks of evil) and Tikkun (restoration and redemption).
The Kabbalists regarded the expulsion from Eden as a metaphor for Shevirat ha-Kelim, The Breaking of the Vessels. In this painting, I have re-envisioned the Expulsion from Eden as a prelude to the totality of evil that will befall humankind, culminating in the Holocaust. In the first panel of the triptych (above) Adam and Eve peer into the future and see the destruction of humanity in the generation of the flood, which, sadly, presages the destruction of European Jewry in the 20th century.

In “The Sacrifice” I have depicted my own vision of Noah and his son burning the dead after the recession of the flood. The painting alludes to the God-driven destruction of humanity in the flood, and, of course, to the Shoah. As the story of Noah represents the making of covenant between God and humanity, the Holocaust suggests a rupture in that very covenant, and the highest manifestation of evil in the world. Kabbalistically, it represents the entrapment of divine light in the “husks” of evil, the Kellipot. The light within the crematorium is the fire of divinity that has been turned to abject evil through the acts of man.

The final panel of “The (In)Humanity Triptych represents the possibility for Tikkun ha-Olam, redemption. Here, Holocaust victims in a European ghetto dress up as Esther and Ahasuerus on Purim. They re-enact the scene from The Book Of Esther, where Esther accuses Haman of plotting to exterminate the Jews; only, instead of pointing at a figure within the painting, Esther points at the viewer, as if to accuse us all, and to remind us of our ethical responsibility.

Those interested in these archetypes/symbols may wish to read about them on my website

 The mission style frames for each of the  paintings were handcrafted in Oregon by Jim McDermott in  Quartersawn Oak


  1. The structure of your triptych creates meaning through form. "The Accusation" is a parallel form to "The Expulsion". The two concentration camp prisoners, dressed as Ahasuerus and Esther, echo the pose of Adam and Eve. Both Adam and Ahasuerus turn away, both Eve and Esther face forward, look God in the face. "The Sacrifice" hovers between expulsion and accusation. Expelled from Eden because of a search for knowledge, encountering the horrors of inhumanity, accusing God of abandonment and betrayal, these human beings are in an eternal moment of knowing. Can there be restoration and redemption? "Redemption comes from God." Did God truly redeem Israel from the Babylonian Exile? How much a sacrifice did God require to cause the people of Israel to return to Eretz Israel in 1948? Six million lives? Indescribable suffering? Is "The Accusation" a statement that the Jews have to redeem God? Your paintings are so powerful, your passion so intense, your knowledge truly impressive. I am grateful to you for having raised such disturbing questions. Even if we have tried to repress these questions, if we refuse to taste the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, we feel them anyway. Merle

    1. Merle Molofsky made the following additional comments on another, psychoanalytic forum, which she has given me permission to reproduce here:

      "My reading of Sandy Drob's paintings is that the power rests with the female essence, the Shekhina. Mother as resting place, Mother as safety, Mother as defender. Mother as accessible God-imago.
      In Sandy Drob's triptych painting, there are two anguished dyads. Each dyad is a man and a woman. The first panel of the triptych is an image of Adam and Eve at the moment of expulsion. The third panel of the triptych is an image of two concentration camp people celebrating Purim, dressed as Esther and Ahasuerus, at the moment of accusation. The central panel is of souls/bodies being tortured, an eternity of sacrifice. "The Expulsion", "The Sacrifice", "The Accusation". The male figures turn their faces away from the viewer. The female figures stare directly ahead at the viewer. One side of our nature turns away, flees knowing. One side of our nature holds knowing."

      The more I think about these paintings, which were consciously produced but in some important measure unconsciously created, I see them as residing in the space between a whole host of polarities, which include: birth and death, creation and destruction, humanity and inhumanity, good and evil, light and darkness, attraction and repulsion, holiness and desecration,royalty and poverty,God and humanity, faith and unbelief; and as you have pointed out, man and woman, and knowing and unknowing.

      It was really only after I completed them that I fully realized that the women in the painting were resolute in confronting the horrors of the middle panel, and the men turned their face, unable to see "The Sacrifice," which itself is conducted by men.

  2. Merle,

    I am deeply grateful and moved by your appreciative words and stirring comments on my paintings. You have, I think, grasped their essence and I have learned from your thoughts.


  3. I have just read Elie Wiesel's 'Day''. Your (our) justifiable questioning is, I feel, brave and
    necessary. I have also just finished Paul Bishop's Jung's Answer to Job. If you have not
    read this I can recommend it. Thankyou for your courage and very moving artwork. I
    agree with James Hillman that society is collectively 'mentally ill'. Too many have fallen
    asleep ....forgotten.....don't care......don't love.

    The emotion in your artwork (for me) matches Elie's emotion.........which matches the emotions brought up from a deep place when I listen to the sublime theme music to Schindler's List. I
    get a similar feeling when I look at the artistic soul-outpourings of Blake and Gibran.

    Your work on the kabbalah/gnosis is appreciated. I feel 'guided' to these areas too. Thanks
    for the humanity.

    1. Thanks so much, Richard, for your enriching comments and reccomendation. I very much respect and admire Paul Bishop, though I have not yet read his book on "Answer to Job." Yes, "Too many have fallen asleep ....forgotten.....don't care......don't love." We have forgotten, as Levinas suggests that prior to being, prior to knowing, prior to science and achievement, is the call to live compassionately and take responsibility for the suffering that we see in the face of the other. I believe that in the paintings Eve and Esther are heeding this call.