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Poster Commentary
"From every human being there rises a light."Baal Shem Tov
Poster design:Tom Geismar


by Erica Brown

Light is expansive and inviting. It brings clarity, warmth, vision and truth. When we are troubled or confused, we say that we are in the dark. When we slip up morally, we find ourselves trapped in darkness. In darkness, we lose our way and feel smaller and less significant. But, as the Baal Shem Tov tells us, from every human being there rises a light.

The Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760) is considered by many to be the founder of the Hasidic movement. He was born in the Ukraine into a poor family and orphaned at a young age. He was associated with many good works, miracles and influential teachings; his name literally means the “owner of a good name.”

The Hebrew word hasid means “pious one.” The Baal Shem Tov tried through his storytelling and teachings to bring greater righteousness and spirituality to a Jewish intellectual terrain that was often arid and spiritless. He was interested in plumbing the vast uncharted territory of the soul and in finding God in nature.

His mystical observations on the power of light invite each of us to discover the light within and to grow it. We are a light when we harness our incredible capacity to shine. We are a light when we look into ourselves and discover our uniqueness. We are a light when we exert our goodness. And we bring more light into the world when we are ethical people and feel ourselves to be ambassadors of an ancient, majestic people.

Conversation Guide


The eighteenth-century founder of Hasidism, known as the Baal Shem Tov, lets each person know that he or she is capable of bringing “light” to the world. The commentary to this poster explores the metaphors of light and darkness in the context of multiple calls of the Baal Shem Tov that we each find our light(s) to shine and spread. 

In religion and art, light is often a metaphor. What are some possible meanings of “light” as it is used in this quotation?

What people can you point to (either from the past or present) lived their lives according to this quotation? What kind of “light” did each one share? What “darkness” did they light up?

What “light” in your own life and personality would you like to strengthen? What might help you do so?



Each image calls out to us to examine it, to note our thoughts and feelings, and relate these impressions to the quotation. Often clues in the artwork suggest meaning and invite interpretation.

In nature, light enables us to see color. Graphic designer Tom Geismar illustrates our quotation by combining color, light, and people in the image.  

How does the image present the quotation? Was this how you interpreted the quotation without the image?

Why might the artist have used a silhouette, not faces?

Is light more closely associated with the body or the mind? What do the images on this poster suggest?

If you had designed this poster, what different images might you have used to illustrate the quotation? Are there any advantages to Geismar’s choices?


Copyright© 2012 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

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Masters Series©2012 Tom Geismar, Quote: Baal Shem Tov,

Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA