Jewish tradition: when we are creative, we imitate God, the ultimate Creator

Expressing God’s gift

In 1941, at the height of his glory, Henri Matisse, an internationally renowned painter whose daring colours and forms dazzled the art world, suffered a devastating setback.

The diagnosis of abdominal cancer forced him to be confined to a wheelchair, which made it very difficult for him to paint standing in front of an easel. He was devastated.

However, at the frightening thought of not being able to continue to paint, pushes him to find a solution. And that’s when a simple pair of scissors changed his life and enriched ours as well.

During the last twelve years of his life, Matisse created some of his most famous images with these same scissors, cutting beautiful one-dimensional shapes out of coloured sheets of paper.

The German composer Ludwig van Beethoven had a similar traumatic experience at the age of 30, when he began to lose his sense of hearing.

In fact, his Ninth Symphony, composed between 1822 and 1824, was almost certainly premiered when he was completely deaf.

 And yet, he too has found a solution that has allowed him to continue to create. His “pair of scissors” was a small wooden stick. Beethoven placed one end in his mouth, the other on his piano, and by striking a key he felt the faint vibrations of the musical note.

What compelled these two creative giants to discover unconventional solutions was the will and determination to continue creating.

A more modern innovator, perhaps not as famous as Matisse or Beethoven, was a Jewish New Yorker named Herb Lubalin (1918-1981), renowned for his typographic solutions and magazine design.

Here is what he proposed, as he was commissioned to design a logo for a magazine called Mother and Child Gospel Illuminations.

And although the publication never saw the light of day, its posters, fortunately, continue to inspire us.

They also make good use of their creativity to explore and solve communication problems in a unique way.

What they all have in common is the idea that it is not necessary to settle for standard ideas, but rather to be encouraged to think outside the box.

My name is Ben Herskowitz and I’ve been working creatively on many titles for as long as I can remember.

I have tried such fields as graphic design, photography, painting, sculpture, jewelry design, mosaic work, web design and I have written two best-selling children’s books on Amazon.

In fact, we find that Jewish tradition highly values creativity even by attributing to it a divine characteristic.

When we are creative, we imitate God, the ultimate Creator.

“ayn tzayar ke’Elohaynu”, there is no greater artist than God.

I would like the examples of Matisse and Beethoven to serve as a springboard to inspire and motivate others to feel the thrill of creativity as well.

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