Posts tagged " art "

Does God use art to reveal spiritual lessons?

January 28th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Hi. I’ve just seen your TV show about music complementing scripture and how it is used to help understand God’s intent in his words.

What about art being used in this way? (a picture says a thousand words)

Are there examples in scripture where God uses art to help people in their understanding?



Dear John,

We think you’re referring to one of our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV shows where we discussed that, when read correctly in synagogue, the Five Books of Moses are chanted in very specific ways handed down from Sinai. In addition, the service of the Levites in the Temple featured music and instruments. Music adds to the understanding of the Bible’s words and verses and touches our souls in ways that can bring us closer to God.

Visual arts, too, are part of God’s revelation. You have surely noticed how much detail is provided about the construction of each piece of the Tabernacle. The materials used, the dimensions and every other detail of construction is specified. This obviously isn’t in order to get featured in an article in House Beautiful magazine. Rather, each detail carries a spiritual message. For one example, see this Thought Tool: Vision – Mission – Vision.

An over all take-away for us is that God has gifted us with a wondrous world. We are constantly balancing the spiritual and the physical to best live in that world. Those of us with a connection to God try to be aware of the overwhelming consumerism and misplaced focus on materialism in developed countries today. However, condemning materialism too strenuously can lead to wrongly rejecting the physical part of life entirely.

One message of Biblical music and visual arts is that the physical part of life can and should become a vehicle for enhancing our lives. While cleanliness may not actually be next to Godliness, making our living spaces attractive and  appreciating the colors, textures and variety of foods and clothing brings us closer to God and His word.

The Lord is my strength and might; He has become my deliverance. This is my God and I will surround Him with beauty; The God of my father, and I will exalt Him.
(Exodus 15:2)

We are supposed to see God and beauty in parallel. In fact, a reliable way to judge both music and art as well as physical objects in general, is to ask whether they distance us from God or bring us closer to Him. When Bach wrote “Soli Deo gloria” at the top of his musical compositions it was to express, “The glory goes to God alone.”  This was  worlds away from the intent of shockingly vulgar lyrics of some of today’s songs.  Similarly, painting and sculpture can elevate our soul or degrade it.  One need only contemplate the hideously ugly monstrosities that are regularly passed off as sculpture by the diseased souls of maudlin and narcissistic artists.

To sum up, each item of the High Priest’s vestments, each component of the Tabernacle and every physical description in Scripture of a person or thing is deliberate and holds an uplifting and God-pointing message for the ages.

Seek out beauty,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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