Love Requires All Our Strength
A more heroic version of this story can be found in Delacroix’s great masterpiece, painted some 200 years after David Teniers’. In Delacroix’s version, the two central figures encompass nearly the entire canvas, as the Samaritan literally leans over backwards to lift the Jewish man onto his horse. The tight sinews of the Samaritan’s exposed calves and forearms speaks to the sheer intensity of will and strength needed to lift the man to the horse. The Samaritan here is “All In”, throwing everything he has at saving this life. In so doing, he also ends up fully embracing the dirty, bloody stranger he’s stumbled upon; the two have almost become one, and technically are painted by Delacroix as one united form in the center of the painting. Ironically, off to the right of the canvas, we see another stranger, this time painted clearly by Delacroix as one of the scholars of the law, too busy studying the word of God in his Torah, to stop and help. In contrast to vigorous, life-giving love at the center of the painting, distracted rabbi recedes into the distance, alone. Into the darkness.
Am the rabbi in this scene, or am the Samaritan? Am I “all in” for love?