Thursday, February 28, 2008

Vayakhel: Rav Cook on Rembrant's Art

Jonathan Sacks discusses art in Judaism this week, and shares a lovely quote from Israel's first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Rav Cook in 1935 (from the Jewish Chronicle):

When I lived in London, I would visit the National Gallery, and the paintings that I loved the most were those of Rembrandt. In my opinion Rembrandt was a saint. When I first saw Rembrandt's paintings, they reminded me of the rabbinic statement about the creation of light. When G-d created the light [on the first day], it was so strong and luminous that it was possible to see from one end of the world to the other. And G-d feared that the wicked would make use of it. What did He do? He secreted it for the righteous in world to come. But from time to time there are great men whom G-d blesses with a vision of that hidden light. I believe that Rembrandt was one of them, and the light in his paintings is that light which G-d created on Genesis day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Aldous Huxley on the role of the Sages and Prophets

from his introduction to the Bagavad-Gita:

"...any theocentric saint, sage or prophet is a human being who knows Who he is, and can therefore effectively remind other human beings of what they have allowed themselves to forget: namely, that if they choose to become what potentially they already are, they too can be eternally united with the Divine..."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The 10 Commandments (?) - Parshat Ki Tisa

Exodus 34, 10 Commandments:

1) Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

2) Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.

3) The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Aviv: for in the month Aviv thou camest out from Egypt.

4) All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his nexk.

5) All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.

6) Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

7) And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end. Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.

8) Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning

9) The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God.

10) Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Stubborn Faith - Parshat Ki Tisa

Jonathan Sacks had some very interesting words on Parshat Ki Tisa which can be listened to here -

He asks about the conversation between Moses and G-d, where Moses pleads on behalf of Israel, asking to not be mentioned in His book if He would decide to destroy Israel. The reason given by Moses (for G-d not to destroy Israel) is most accurately translated in English as "Because they are are a stiff-necked people". The obvious question according to this translation is - why would being a "stiff-necked" or stubborn people be to any nation's credit? Elsewhere is that not G-d's actual critiscm of Israel?

He quotes a 20th century Rabbi who experienced the horrors of WW2 (listen to the audio for his full name and history) who suggests that Moses could be read to be refering to Israel's stubborn faith. In other words, "just as they stubbornly betrayed You with the Golden Calf, so too will they stubbornly keep their faith in You in the future".

The Chief brings some powerful stories, the first from a 15th century historian about a father who having found his child deceased (from starvation after escaping the Spanish Inquisition) turns to G-d and says "Master of the Universe, the one thing I won't let You do is take away my faith in You".

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dr G Amitai pointed shared an interesting observation with me today - the parallel lines that exist in the design of the Keruvim and the process of cell seperation.

Terumah: Maimonides on the symbolism of the Keruvim (Angles)

Maimonedies writes in Book 3 of the Guide that faith in the Prophet precedes faith in the Torah, (since the Torah is dependent on the Prophet) and that Prophecy is only made possible through an angel.

This is why the the Ark has Keruvim (Angels) on it. He also suggests that there were 2 Keruvim because having one might lead to the false impression of a Divine image.