A Deeper Look into Snow: Fleeting Purity

A Deeper Look into Snow: Fleeting Purity

"The Almighty thunders marvelously with His voice;
He works wonders that we cannot understand.
He says to snow, 'Fall to the ground!'"
(Job 37:5-6)

Snow, like all of nature, presents us with a choice: we can perceive it as a simple, naturally occurring phenomenon, or as a miracle that reminds us of the hand of the Almighty. As a photographer, I strive to see and then to show the miraculous in the moment. For the moment itself comes and goes, and what remains is our impression of it, how it changed us.

The great Jewish sages of the Medrash found snow to be a powerful allegory for the relationship between nature and the divine.

"Rabbi Yehoshua says all that is created in the heavens and the land really comes from the heavens above. How do we know this? Like the verse states, “He says to snow, ‘Fall to the ground!’ Just as we see Snow down here on the land but it came from above, so too everything we see in the heavens and the land came from above."
(Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 12:11)

Though rain is understandably a common representation of God’s blessing in Jewish tradition, here, our sages chose snow to show us the Source of all that we see. Unlike rain, which soaks into the ground or runs off into streams, snow freezes in place, holds its form, and accumulates on the ground for us to witness. Though ephemeral—it may not last longer than a few hours or days—it provides us that moment’s pause to perceive and take in its reality, this stuff of beauty and nourishment that has descended quite literally from above.

Like a photograph, pausing and holding a moment in time, snow gives us the chance to really see how the blessings of heaven alight on earth.

Snow drapes and covers whatever it meets: earth, vegetation, human construction. Here in Israel, we see it on ancient walls and new technology, in wild, natural landscapes and orderly agricultural fields, and on our neighbors and friends. It visually unifies all these different pieces of our world and reminds us that each of them, including our own bodies, is an ephemeral gift from above.

King David pleads from the Almighty to help him manifest in his own being the purity of snow:

“Purify me with hyssop and I will be pure; wash me till I am whiter than snow." (Psalms 51:9)

The enchanting, otherworldly whiteness of snow comes from its ability to reflect all the light, great and small, that comes to it. Perhaps the purity to which the Psalmist is striving, too, is that capacity to share forth all the blessings one receives. This, too, is my prayer to G-d for my artistic practice, to give me the ability to reflect back into the world, the beauty that it has, and to scatter into our eyes the great light that comes from above.

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