What Being An Artist Means

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Waiting on a bench in the Jerusalem Central Station, I met a girl who was an alumni of my University. She was in Israel for the month and she was on her way to visit her aunt and uncle who lived in the Yeshuv , Itamar.

We spoke about our experiences at Boston University, our recent adventures in the Holy land, and our shared status as artists.

Then she got to politics.  My new friend had entered into dangerous territory.

“You know, I’m an artist and all, and you, being an artist, you probably have similar ideas…but, since I’m an artist, I just don’t really feel comfortable with my aunt living in a settlement.  What do you think?”

Last time I checked, your creative abilities were not supposed to determine what you considered right and wrong.

I am an artist. I paint. I take pictures. I make films. I write.

The fact that I can put paintbrush to canvas does not have any impact on what I think about Jews living in our homeland.  That I can write out a poem does not mean that I am opposed to idealists and dreamers. That I can pick up a camera does not mean I deny the rights of my own people.

If you are an artist, you should be putting your creative energies into defending this land you blindly condemn because of your vocation.  There are artists in this land. There are artists painting pictures and there are artists painting reality. They create the world that they want to live in. They fight for their art, they die for their art, and you oppose them for their art.

Do not tell me you oppose them because you are an artist.

Yes, it is encouraged in society to hide your beliefs, to not stand up for what is right…but to believe in something simply because it fits a label you place yourself into? No wonder the world is upside down.

The Jewish people living in Yesha are artists. They create, they give, they fight.  If you are going to oppose something, let it not be because you are an artist.  If you are going to oppose something, let it be because this something is wrong.  However, In this case, this something…is right.

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A Lesson on Sukkot

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“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hand.

They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see;

they have ears, but cannot hear, noses but cannot smell;

they have hands, but cannot touch, feet, but cannot walk;

they can make no sound in their throats.

Those who fashion them,all who trust in them shall become like them.”-Psalms 115:4-6

 

As I flipped through the pages of my Siddur on Sukkot, this particular psalm stuck out to me.  There was something about it that was haunting, something relevant, something real.  I wanted to analyze it.To know what it meant.  To connect it to my reality.  

Walking home with my friend Davina, my thoughts became clear as we discussed the passage.  

What are the idols that people construct and worship today? Are they statues made out of gold and silver, or are they something more subtle?  The idol of today is hidden behind advertisements and ideas of glamour. The idol of today is what to get next and how to get it. The idol of today is what to buy and what to wear. The idol of today is materialism.  

In a society that worships objects, do the people themselves become objects?  In a world that is so focused on items, are people defined by what they own?  How many  define themselves based on the new brand name that they wear and the car that they drive? By worshipping items, our society has become one that labels it’s people by what they buy. A man must have the latest basketball shoes.  A woman must have that brand name purse.

On Sukkot, we forsake our homes to live in temporary structures.  We leave physicality behind and enter into a dwelling place where our experience is largely shaped by our company and not by the comfort afforded by our normal abodes.  On Sukkot, we leave the trappings of materialism and enter into a reminder of what is truly important in life.  We realize that our houses are only temporary.  That everything could be swept away in a second. We realize that we must not identify ourselves by the clothes we wear and the things we own, but by our actions and the way that we impact others.  Only then can we truly break free from the shackles of idol worship.

 

Chag Sameach ve Shana Tova Am Yisrael

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revolutionizing Extremism

“Some people believe exactly what I believe, but they like to wear ties. They know their ties neatly around their necks, cutting the brain off from the flow of blood, and this solves the problem.  The mind to one side, life to the other. I, you know, don’t like ties. I don’t like dividers.  Understand me. My beliefs are nurtured not only from external well springs, but also from my veins, and in my veins flows blood” -Israel Eldad

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On a Saturday night at Nefe Nehemiah I walked around the community and spoke to my host.  “People used to die for their beliefs” he told me as we gazed upon the Samarian hills.  I conceded.  Today, it seems, less people are willing to live for their beliefs,let alone die for them.  We are left with a mentality that even if your beliefs are right, then it is a crime to act on them.   The risk of being called an extremist is too powerful, but it seems many people have forgotten that there is such thing as “extremely good.”

An animal has no beliefs, no ideologies, this is a privilege granted only to human beings.  An animal survives.  A human being lives for something greater.

Belief isn’t something to be argued about at the dinner table, it’s not a passing thought. It’s something to act on. Something to live by.   Something that gives us strength.

Judaism was built on people who today would be called “extremists”.  Avraham Avinu was willing to be thrown into the fire to live up to what he knew to be true.  While the rest of the world fought against his claims, he fought for truth.  He never agreed to the “almost oneness” of G-d,  only accepting the one truth, while the Idol-worshipping world continued to call him crazy.  Today, there are people who follow in the path of Avraham and live by what is true while the rest of the world continues to call them crazy.  It is time that the world wakes up to the other side of extremism, the side that leads to positive change in the world, that compels people to act, the kind that brings good into the world and the kind that we as people who desire to change the world should embrace.