Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
After I posted this morning my piece, “Music and the Arts – A Spiritual Necessity” my cousins, Susan and Leonard Nimoy, passed along to me the following video link from CBS News on the extraordinary modern art collection hanging on the walls of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
In explaining the significance of art and medicine, one physician said that “artwork and doctor’s work complement each other.” Leonard remarked that a “hospital should be sterile physically, but not emotionally or intellectually.” And the piece ended with the reporter saying, “Even the walls are therapeutic!”
A terrific story once more emphasizing the importance of art as a necessity in life - http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7407646n&tag=stack
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May 6, 2012 | 8:23 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
This address by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of the music division at The Boston Conservatory, though already 8 years old, came to me from a friend this week. I was so moved by it that I wanted to share it with you.
“I have come to understand that music is not part of ‘arts and entertainment’ as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.”
Mr. Paulnack concludes his address with these words:
You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used cars. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.
Paulnack’s is a powerful statement of what music is and does in particular, and what the arts as a whole bring to the human condition. Parents, schools, politicians and government officials, budgets, philanthropists, and people of faith - take note!
My only problem with his address is his broadsided critique of religion as a vehicle of human wrath. That characterization is not religion. Rather, his is really a critique of human avarice, greed and ego. It its pure form, religion and the arts have the same spiritual goal – to bring us close to Oneness, to God, to our highest selves and that is healing not only of one’s particular tribe or community, but of all the world.
His address is worth reading.
May 3, 2012 | 11:29 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
In a recent article published in the Jewish Forward (April 13, 2012), reflecting on the ever-widening cultural gulf between American Jewry and Israelis, the journalist and author David Hazony challenged the American Jew to learn Hebrew. Here is some of what he wrote:
“…there exists no greater threat to Jewish Peoplehood than the cultural disconnect between Israeli and American Jews. And unlike so many of our people’s other problems, this one actually is quite simple to solve – but only if American Jews decide they want to solve it… Growing up in American public schools, I studied French for six years. By 12th grade I’d read Moliere, Camus, Voltaire and Ionesco in the original. Later in life I was able to revive my French in a couple of months of a weekly conversation class, and after a number of brief visits to Paris I was getting by, or at least making a noble effort… such an education gave me something much deeper than just lingual training. It gave me an incredible amount of insight, appreciation, respect and fondness for French culture, French thinking, French joie de vivre…”
Then he says:
“American Jews have to learn Hebrew…there are at least two overwhelming reasons that they should. Leon Wieseltier covered one of them last year, in a jaw-dropping essay called ‘Language, Identity, and the Scandal of American Jewry,’ who said ‘American Jews…have inhumanely and un-Jewishly cut themselves off from the vast oceans of their own biblical and rabbinic past because they don’t bother to relate to Hebrew the way that Western countries until recently related to Greek and Latin – as a basic building block of cultural literacy. The assumption of American Jewry that it can do without a Jewish language is an arrogance without precedent in Jewish history. And this illiteracy, I suggest, will leave American Judaism and American Jewishness forever crippled and scandalously thin… Without Hebrew, the Jewish tradition will not disappear entirely in America, but most of it will certainly disappear.”
Hazony continues that
“…the time is coming very soon – if it has not already arrived – when one will not be able to fully participate in Jewish cultural life without knowing Hebrew. This is true in part because of the sheer quantity of cultural creativity, but also because of the trends: Israel is quickly growing in wealth, population and global influence, while American Jews are, in the optimistic view, marching in place. American Jews have much to contribute to Hebrew discourse and our collective Jewish future. Their tradition of tolerance and religious liberalism, their democratic experience and their philanthropic habits, to name just a few things. But they will do so only if they dispense with the ignorance-as-wisdom arrogance that locks them out of Hebrew-based culture.”
It is true that in the United States Jewish scholarship is available in English. It is true as well that English is spoken widely in Israel. Consequently, many American Jews have concluded that they do not need to speak or read Hebrew to get along. What is lost, however, is something deeper and more essential that goes to the heart of Jewish peoplehood.
The language of prayer and Jewish faith, of Torah, philosophy, mysticism, and literature, of Zionism and the Israeli experience is Hebrew – not English. If we American Jews are ever to be a part of the culture of the Jewish people, we must be able to converse in the language of our people.
David Hazony was spot on when he said, “Yehudei America: Limdu ivrit!” (American Jews: Learn Hebrew!) - one letter, one word, one phrase, one verse, one idea at a time!
Read the rest of Hazony’s article here.