Friday, January 22, 2016

Judaism: Parshat Beshalach: Life as art

"The Israelites crossing the Red Sea" (1931) by Marc Chagall; gouache, oil on paper
ISRAEL---Once there was a painter who decided the time had come to create his masterpiece. Shunning the accepted trend of his time, he decided that rather than paint a portrait of the king, as all great artists did, he would create something more interesting: A life-size portrait of the king’s horse. For many years he labored, until at last the great day arrived, his masterpiece was complete. Rabbi Shlomo Kruger used this parable to explain the primary event of Parshat Beshalach: the splitting of the Red Sea. In today’s reality, that which is plainly visible to our eyes is hidden from our perception. We expect to see only that which we are used to seeing, and thus are unable to truly see much of what surrounds us. [link]

"Moses calls the waters down upon the Egyptian army" (1966) by Marc Chagall
(Continued parable) Eager to hear the praise he was sure would pour forth, he hung the enormous masterpiece on the walls of the king’s palace, and waited for the people’s reaction. Yet to his disappointment, he heard not a word. People passed back and forth before his magnificent painting, yet no one made the slightest remark. In fact, people seemed barely to notice it, and paid no attention at all.

Finally, he could no longer restrain himself. “Excuse me, sir,” he asked, approaching one of the passerby, “what do you think of that painting.” The man looked up, confused. “I’m terribly sorry,” he answered, “but I’m afraid I can’t see the painting at all – the king’s horse is blocking it completely.” Suddenly the painter understood the problem, and knew how he had to fix it. He drew his knife, stepped up to his masterpiece, and split it from top to bottom, cleaving it into two. He then re-positioned the two pieces, leaving a small gap between the painting’s right and left halves. Only then did people realize that it was a picture, and gave it the attention and wonder it deserved.