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    Divine spirit in art – Ki Tissa

    ArtistThe sidra introduces us to the names of B’tzalel and Oholiav. They were the ones who designed and created the sanctuary in the wilderness.

    Experts at their trade, their skills brought distinction to the tabernacle. Without them, the Israelite camp would have been much poorer. They both deserve hakkarat ha-tov, acknowledgement and appreciation.

    But isn’t the Torah being more than necessarily generous when it records that God had filled B’tzalel with ru’ach Elokim, the divine spirit? One can imagine the use of such words in relation to a great thinker, teacher, prophet, preacher or poet – but here it is an artist, architect and artisan who is being described so magnanimously.

    The explanation must be that there is a spirit of the Divine in all cultural creators, artists, musicians and craftsmen, even mathematicians and scientists. That is, if their principle is not art for art’s sake but art for goodness’ sake.

    It is reported that Cynthia Ozick was asked what made Jewish art, music or literature Jewish, and she is said to have answered, “It has a liturgical quality”. The liturgical quality is what is meant by the Divine spirit in art.

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