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When Spirituality and Creativity Meet

December 8, 2013 | by Yisroel Juskowitz

Discovering that Judaism and creativity are not at odds with each other.

Ever since I was a young boy, I knew I was born with creative gifts. I taught myself how to draw and paint, write songs, sing, play guitar, and recently just wrote my first book. Yet for all I learned in the creative realm, I learned even more about my Jewish soul.

I used to think that creativity has little to do with Judaism. After all, Judaism seemed to be mostly a set of rules, and expressing creativity was about releasing oneself from the shackles of religious dogma and ritual, a yearning to be free from all constraints. So the more creative one is, the more at odds he is with Judaism.

Boy, was I wrong. The reality is that not only does Judaism not conflict with expressing creativity, it can enhance one’s creativity. And by the same token, creativity can enhance one’s Judaism. In the Torah God summoned Betzalel, a young boy who was only 14, to use his creative artistic gifts to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle for God to dwell. When someone channels his or her creative talents, whether in music, art, or writing to help make the world a better place, they are performing Tikkun Olam, the Jewish value of fixing the world.

I saw this with my own creative journey. When I started working on paintings which contained Jewish themes, I found myself not only learning more about Judaism, but I felt closer to God when I was painting. And the more passionate I became about Judaism, the better my paintings became. This also awakened other creative channels in me. I started writing songs and playing guitar which eventually led me to creating my own album.

When we use our creativity in a positive way, we are being like God, Who is the ultimate Creator. The verse says, “There is no ‘Tzur’ (Rock) like our God” (1 Shmuel, 2:2) which the Talmud expounds “There is no ‘Tziur’ – meaning Artist – like our God.” Just look at the many shades of red contained in a single rose to appreciate the beauty of God’s handiwork, let alone a beautiful sunset or the view from the top of the Grand Canyon. God is not just a “scientist” who manipulates particles and causes chemical reactions; he is a true Artist in the fullest sense of the word, Who brings unmatchable beauty to the world. When we create works of art that bring beauty to the world in any of the creative arenas, we are continuing God’s work.

Only Mankind is charged with the task to create.

This was one task that is unique to Mankind. All other creatures live primarily in the world of instinct. Only Mankind is charged with the task to create. We can build towering skyscrapers, create symphonies, paint masterpieces on canvas, or write beautiful stories or poems. This is a task which comes with great responsibilities as well, since Creativity is like fire. It can be used to provide warmth and light or it can be can also be used to destroy. There are people who have committed terrible acts and said they were inspired by certain music or writings to commit these acts.

Every one of us have a creative spark inside of us. We are all like construction workers who arrive at a building site. Each one of us is given a tool box at the site. One person may have a hammer and nails. Another one may have a power drill or power saw. Another may have bricks and mortar. Another may have pipes and wiring. Each one of us needs to look inside ourselves and find the tools we have been given to help make the world into a better place. Each of us has a unique inner gift; discover it, express it, and use it to fix the world.

Click here to purchase Yisroel’s book and music.

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