The question (again): Torah and art, can they coexist?

Examination: art, it seems to me, in its best sense is this: the artist is one who stands back; that is, he detaches himself from the flow of life: of the social milieu in which he finds himself. He separates himself in order to observe. He says: what do I see? What is this life? What is this world? How are people living? What are they choosing to do? Is it right? Is there a better way? Etc. Endless questions.  That which he does not understand is also not excluded from his scope, from his conclusions.

It seems, in the sense that everything is available to him, and that he can choose as he wants all the variables of his investigation, that he chances for success are remote. Behold our sages have taught:’ If one sought to encompass a lot he won’t attain anything, if he seeks to encompass a little he’ll attain’. Nevertheless, it seems, if the artist knows how to use his freedom wisely and find the proper way to limit himself, he can rise above all the “observers of reality.”

The answer: His picture, though, can only contain what he knows, or what he can sense. Therefore the artist who knows nothing of Torah, poor soul, his pictures contain nothing of the spiritual, only imagination and human grasp. (Perhaps if he searches very deep and honestly he can connect to his soul which has learnt Torah, even though formally he has not learned. But this must be seen as a rare instance.) But if he is informed by Torah… it seems he has unbounded potential for producing works of value. For it is a Torah precept to observe and refine one’s understanding of reality, and develop the means for expressing his findings in the most cogent way. With Hashem’s help.

There is another aspect of the artist, which is, apparently the opposite of the first, the detached observer. And that is the artist is also the actor. With Hashem’s help I hope to explore this issue; for now I will state in short the the merging of these paradoxical roles seems to be described by our teaching of the Sages that man is a “olam katan” a microcosm of the universe, who contains the entire macrocosm within him. Thus the artist observes the world and expresses himself; he himself is what he has created from his observations. Thus a holy man expresses a holy world, and a profane man…May Hashem have mercy.

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