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The Art of G-d

The Art of G-d

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It is amazing how often one finds answers to long held questions in the most unexpected places. One Sunday, I visited the Tate Modern in London, a famous and massive gallery of modern art. Some of the pieces on display are truly remarkable. As I was viewing the art, a very simple fact occurred to me: whereas art was once the portrayal on canvas of a real life situation, modern art endeavors to convey the thoughts and imagination of the artist in a most direct way. This is what truly fascinates me about this genre of art: it is a window into the minds of other people.

For most people, the only medium of communication is speech. Speech, however, can never communicate the full depth of what one would like to share; inevitably the diverse usage of language creates barriers and the limits of vocabulary are restrictive. Speech can never communicate the full depth of what one would like to share. Music often succeeds where language fails. Ultimately, the musically talented are able to communicate through music, which although unable to convey deep ideas, is capable of stirring intense emotion in the listener. However, neither language nor music have the ability to portray the thoughts, feelings and imagination of the communicator to the extent that art, in particular modern art, can.

An artist who depicts a scenic view does so from a subjective standpoint, reproducing the scene as closely to reality as possible. In modern art, instead of reproducing what they see outside themselves, artists portray what they see in their mind's eye. The result can therefore often seem baffling to the layperson. The truth is, however, that when artists reveal their own personal thoughts and imagination to the public the result is very powerful. It is not often that we are privy to other people’s thoughts in such a direct way.

Based on Genesis, the Kabbalah teaches that G‑d created the world using the power of speech. According to the Kabbalists it is this power that perpetually sustains the universe, except on Shabbat when G‑d stopped creating. This is interpreted to mean that on the seventh day of creation G‑d no longer sustains the world through speech: instead, it is sustained through G‑d's thought. Since thought is a higher faculty than speech, Shabbat is a holy day because on this day the world is sustained by a more lofty Divine faculty. In a sense, on the Shabbat G‑d's thoughts are revealed to the world.

This concept always presented me with a difficulty. The Kabbalistic system is predicated on the idea that G‑d created man in His image, so that by understanding the nature of man one can have some understanding--albeit a very limited one--of the workings of the Creator. In the human being, speech is the prime method of communication, while thought is generally unable to communicate itself without the medium of speech. Or so I believed.

Walking through the halls of the Tate Modern that Sunday afternoon, it struck me: thoughts can be communicated via art in the most pristine fashion. The artist paints the exact thought-image from his or her imagination, the paints and the canvas placing few limits on the communication of the artist's thought.

The world is a painting and G‑d is the artist. The world is a painting and G‑d is the artist. During the week we perceive the world in a subjective manner, and the Divine artist is not always immediately noticeable through His work. On Shabbat, however, when we are charged with the responsibility of steeping ourselves into an atmosphere where we see the world totally as a reflection of G‑d, the world may be seen as a manifestation of His imaginative thoughts. In this sense, G‑d is the prototype modern artist, the universe is His gallery, and on Shabbat it is open to the public.

By Levi Brackman
Rabbi Levi I. Brackman is director of Judaism in the Foothills and the author of numerous articles on issues of the day.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Anonymous USA January 16, 2016

Former Artist "extraordinaire" This article has inspired me to pick up my paint and brushes and paint my impression of the Shechinah. What colors should I use for Light? :) Reply

Kris Asher Wanders Melbourne, Australia April 25, 2014

on "The Art of G-d" In his article Levi Brackman clearly expresses his thoughts about creativity and expression. It seems to me that Levi Brackman is what one would call a "visual".
Music is auditory and mathematical. Since the letters in the Alephbet also have a mathematical connotation. Pictures/paintings are statical. Music is dynamic and untangible. Reply

Shelly Tolbert NY February 8, 2014

I loved this. This was enlightening, a breath of wisdom based fresh air, thank G-d for shabbat rest and peace Reply

Carter Lisk Sarah, Mississippi February 13, 2013

Thank You Very well stated, I read your works on a regular basis Rabbi
Thanks Reply

Mr. rodger slininger via chabadchampselysees.com April 9, 2012

Wonderfully clarified I've often said that language is a cumbersome method to communicate with, but I didn't really put together music an art as a completion to the intent to communicate. How wonderful that G_D has communicated with humble little old me on his canvas of life for me and you to enjoy.
Thank You Reply

William commack, NY December 21, 2011

Thank You I sit here alone warmed by the presence of 3 candles and now your writing. What a wonderful masterpiece our g_d of the universe has created and you and I are a part of it. There truly are no words to describe it. Reply

Anonymous stamford, ct February 8, 2006

G-d's art A beautiful, inspiring article. If more Jewish educators understood this point of view, our children would receive a more spiritual education -- or at least an education that opened their emotions and senses to worlds of thought, and what lies beyond thought. Reply

V Duek Los Angeles, CA February 8, 2006

Enlightment What a refreshing and enlightining article. I love art and work with it and it is great to reflect it to spirituality in the way that Rabbi Levi I. Brackman did. Thank you. Reply

arash karaj, iran February 6, 2006

thank you i did enjoyed from your text. i do believe in kabbalah. Reply

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