Thursday, February 08, 2007

Question & Answer With "Space Cadet" - Creativity

A Simple Jew asks:

When desiring to replicate the myriad of colors in an ocean, field, or forest, an artist may use paint to represent what he sees with his physical eyes. However, how would we know colors if Hashem had not created them?

Isn't an artist essentially attempting to make a miniature "copy" of Hashem's creation while lacking the ability to create something from nothing?

"Space Cadet" answers:

If you would really like my opinion, I think the concept that we are created "b'tzelem Elokim" means that we are given the ability to be creative in the broadest sense: spiritually, morally, intellectually, emotionally, physically, etc.

This is implicit in the musag of Chazal that we can be "shutfim b'ma'aseh bereishis." Even though Chazal are primarily focusing on emunah and shemiras Shabbos and asiyas hamitzvos, the very concept of bechirah requires that all areas of human creativity are included in these words.

Because how can you separate the moral aspect of life from the rest of it all?

Rabbi Pinchos Eliyohu of Vilna in his encyclopedic hashkofah-mussar-mystical work Sefer HaBris clearly understands this to be so, and it permeates his entire discussion. (One of this things this leads him to say is that since all humanity is engaged in creative, world-improving work, the mitzvah d'oreisa of ahavas reah / loving one's neighbor extends to all humanity -- the only exceptions being those who are devoted to evil, such as thieves and gangsters, etc.) I agree with you about the distinction between yesh-m'ayin and yesh-m'yesh, but the latter is still very much a category of creativity.

Of course, there are many other ways of looking at the concepts of b'tzelem Elokim and ahavas re'ah. But these views are nevertheless solidly supported. Hashem created humankind so that we could be creative like Him (so to speak)!

I am flattered that you asked me this question, Simp, but must say that I am not the best person to ask, not being a theologian or a philosopher. My mind is teeming with ideas for paintings, but I have no money for art supplies!


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