Mordechai Beck, Jerusalem

“At night in my bed I longed for my only love,” the sleepless young woman yearns in the Song of Songs (3:1). Contemporary Israeli artist Mordechai Beck captures the intensity and intimacy of the Bible’s most sensual book in this linocut of the reclining woman from his illustrated Hebrew edition of the Song of Songs (in Hebrew, Shir ha-Shirim). As Robert Alter notes in the accompanying article, the biblical poet has carefully crafted the Song to magnify the physical and emotional intimacy of the lovers.

The lovers’ closeness is only enhanced by the distance the poet puts between them at the beginning of the poem. “I sought him but did not find him,” the woman cries in Song of Songs 3:2 (compare with photo of linocut depicting the lover’s desperate eyes).