Religion as art: an interpretation
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The world needs both types of men, or categories, to thrive. It is a thoroughly this-worldly phenomenon, which lays no claims to the beyond. Truly, only God is exalted since only He is outside finite existence. His sense of the aesthetic is highly literary, there is no discussion of visuality or sight particularly. Although prayer may be a spiritually rich aesthetic experience, it is one created by language, not by sight. In this text, the Rav defines the halakhic man by his way of visualizing the world around him.
Not only, however, does the halakhic man see the world through the prism of the law, but the law also colors his vision, adding beauty to what is already the extraordinary in nature. From the very midst of the law there arises a cosmos more splendid and beautiful than all the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
By the mid-twentieth century, the idea that Jews do not have an authentic tradition of visual art, that paintings, photographs, and sculptures are not part of religious experience or halakhic life, was ingrained enough that Rabbi Soloveitchik could define the man of faith, the confronted man, at least partly by his lack of interest in the aesthetic and the visually beautiful.
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If Kant or Hegel had read Rambam or the Shulhan Arukh , they might have known that Jewish law does not actually proscribe the creation of images. But that was not the way of history. It is important to reclaim visual culture and aesthetics for religious Judaism so that beauty can be allowed to inspire halakhically bound actions, to color worship, and give meaning to our rituals.
We can bring beauty into our religious lives partly by reading texts that are seemingly anti-visual for the artistic metaphors that hide within them. Although the Rav did not, on a surface level, have much appreciation for the aesthetic, he has left us the chance to see beauty of an artistic nature in our halakhic lives.
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Just like someone who is being trained in drawing is taught to truly see the shadows and the highlights that make up the world, observant Jews learn to see the beauty of new blossoms or setting suns through a distinctive, and legally bound, lens. Mann, ed.
A Religion Without Visual Art? The Rav and the Myth of Jewish Art
Shalom Carmy Hoboken: Ktav, , Soloveitchik , ed. Nathaniel Helfgot Jersey City: Ktav, , Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man , trans. Lawrence J. Kaplan Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, , Tuesday, September 24, The Lehrhaus.
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Cantillation: Some Observations — Part 1. Lehrhaus is a forum to generate thoughtful and dynamic discourse exploring the depth and diversity of Jewish ideas. Contact us: editors thelehrhaus. Still unsure of which tool to best examine his world and express his place in it, Man confused the two and created a third tool. Religion is an artistic creation, but one that has had such an impact on human existence, it has had to be refined through philosophy, ethics and sense to maintain its continuity.
Its scriptures are morality plays. Its rituals are sympathetic and symbolic performance pieces all in search of truth. The mistake is in thinking that the search for this truth also reveals facts. Religion, from this perspective, is the broadest, most elaborate and most influential art movement in human history.
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Science is the expression of the universe, constant functions that act as laws. Art is human expressions. Religion, the supernatural and the occult seem to be caught in between as they want to explain both.
But if we pull facts away from religion, what we have should fall into the category of art. There is seemingly no reason to hold it as a separate magisterium otherwise. In the words of writer and practising magician Alan Moore ,. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness. Moore makes an excellent point. The language we use to describe art is so similar to the language we use in describing the religious that it seems undeniable that we are experiencing the same qualia and effects under different names.
But we can extend this from the personal to the cultural by scaling the argument up from singular pieces to entire movements.
Obviously, for believers, this approach may be unwelcome because it essentially agrees with the atheistic assertion that religious cosmologies and supernatural events are false or rather, not facts. But outside of religion, this approach may be helpful in reassessing religion, perhaps offering a consideration for capital-A Atheists and Anti-theists. You must be logged in to post a comment. Sometimes I spit with pleasure on the Portrait of My Mother , A year later he announced his return to the Catholic Church. He began to incorporate Classical iconography into his pieces.
He was inspired by Classical Greek and Roman art as well as art from the Renaissance. In the painting, the Virgin Mary is seated on a platform with a nuclear structure.
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