January 2, 2021

Editor’s Note: Tardema

By Eden Pearlstein

Awakening is a gradual process that is imposed on the life of a generation and the individual. Sleeping is, by the way, its primary phase.

– Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project

The word Tardema, which means a trance or an exceptionally deep sleep, appears only twice in the Torah. In its first appearance, it describes the quality of sleep that God brought upon Adam before taking his rib and forming Eve out of it. In its second, it describes the dread slumber and “great darkness” that “fell upon” Abraham in the desert, during which he was shown a smoking furnace and flaming torch silently passing between the halved carcasses of freshly-sacrificed animals, and told that his offspring would soon be exiled, enslaved, and ultimately redeemed over the course of generations. In the former instance, the awareness of both self and other emerges simultaneously: as it is only through the other that we are introduced to ourselves. In the latter, the field of relationship extends beyond the borders of the personal and enters into the arena of the political. This is the journey from person to people, from myth to history, from the garden to the metropolis to the wilderness.

Tardema is not the simple sleep one slips into after a hard day at work. Tardema is the fever dream one falls into while muttering, “It is not good for man to be alone”; it is the terrifying trance one enters in order to receive the blessing of one’s burdens; the thick darkness from within which the light of one’s responsibility shines forth. Tardema is a gestational sleep, a sleep of necessity, induced when things have gone too far, when change is imperative. Whether it is a “dark night of the soul”1 or the “nightmare of history”2 from which we are trying to awaken, it is in such sleep that we are granted visions of our purpose and potential. 

What dreams do while we are asleep, art seeks to accomplish while we are awake. Art projects images, words, and sensations for the larger body to process—showing us where we have been and where we are headed, whom we have loved and whom we have wronged, how we have succeeded and how we have failed, what we are ignoring and what we are obsessing over. What dreams do in private, art does in public. During sleep we are all “Poets at Work.”3

It is in this spirit that we offer Ayin One: Tardema, the inaugural issue of Ayin’s digital journal. Recognizing that our individual and collective lives have been in a kind of hibernation for the last 11 months of the COVID pandemic, and that our society has reached a generation-defining crossroads, we understand that, for many, life currently feels like a pressure cooker. Something new is emerging, but we don’t know quite what it is. Will it be liberating and just, or oppressive and corrupt—or both? Either way, people from left to right all agree that we cannot continue as we have been. It is precisely at such a moment when the generative sleep of Tardema is most needed.  

Night comes before day, sleep before waking. Tardema is the ground from which our destiny may spring forth.

Lyla tov, good night. 

–– Eden Pearlstein, Editor of Ayin Press

Footnotes

  1. “Into this dark night souls begin to enter when God draws them forth from the state of beginners – which is the state of those that meditate on the spiritual road – and begins to set them in the state of the progressives – which is that of those who are already contemplatives – to the end that, after passing through it, they may arrive at the state of the perfect, which is that of the Divine union of the soul with God.” E. Allison Peers, trans. The Dark Night of the Soul (Garden City, New York: Image/Doubleday, 1959), p.37.
  2. “History,” Stephen said, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” James Joyce, Ulysses.
  3. “They say that every evening, before he slept, Saint-Pol-Roux (the Symbolist poet) used to have posted on the door of his manor house at Camaret, a notice which read: POET AT WORK.” Andre Breton, “First Surrealist Manifesto,” 1924.