These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Dvar Torah from Salon Pardes

Posted on October 14, 2012 by Derek Kwait

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Last night I held the first-ever Salon Pardes in my living room. The Salon provides a safe, supportive environment for Pardes students to share their creative endeavors with other students and receive constructive criticism and feedback. The event was a rousing success, with more than 10 students presenting their art, poetry, photography, music, singing, writing, and drawing and around 15 more there to watch, critique, and lend support. In true Pardes fashion, I kicked-off the event with the dvar Torah below. Pictures will be soon to follow.

When I was looking for a date for this event, my only criteria was that it be as soon as possible after the Chagim; it was not intentional that the Salon be right after the Shabbat  Bereshit. In retrospect, though, I don’t think it could have worked out better. Parshat Bereshit is all about the creative process–God’s Creation, and then ours, because what could being made in God’s Image possibly mean other than maybe the one thing humans can do that other animals cannot, namely, create art for its own sake? This idea of the spirituality of Creation is especially prevalent in more mystical sources. In the Tanya, it speaks about the three stages of Creation: that initial spark of inspiration, the further teasing out of an idea out of that flash, then finally, the action, the “doing” of the idea, the part that turns that initial spark of inspiration into a physical reality. The Tanya relates this process to both God and man in the creative process.

In his dvar for this week, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talks about the fundamental importance of the creative endeavor to Judaism and spirituality, writing, “Since G-d transcends nature – the fundamental point of Genesis 1 – then He is free, unbounded by nature’s laws. By creating human beings in His image, He gave us a similar freedom, thus creating the one being capable itself of being creative. The unprecedented account of G-d in the Torah’s opening chapter leads to an equally unprecedented view of the human person and our capacity for self-transformation….

[T]he great truth of Genesis 1 remains…. The Torah remains G-d’s supreme call to humankind to freedom and creativity on the one hand, and on the other, to responsibility and restraint – becoming G-d’s partner in the work of creation.” The ability to make art can make us God-like, but it comes with responsibility. This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Dante, when he wrote, “Art is God’s grandchild.” My blessing to us all (and me too, why not) is that through this Salon tonight, we should be inspired to use our talents to give God grandchildren He will really kvell over.