The Mechanic & The Artist

Aug 19th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Prayer
My ten-year-old nephew was visiting from Argentina and gave a demonstration of his Tai Kwon Do forms. It was fantastic to watch him go through the complex movements, but something was missing from his performance; he was mechanistically perfect but there was no poetry in his motion. It reminded me of “Isaac Stern Goes To China,” in which the great violinist (and Talmud student) explained to the Chinese students that the difference between the good and the great musicians is that the good have perfect mechanics, while the great play with such poetry of motion that the audience ignores the mechanics.

I examined a few Mezuzot this week. Some were fakes, and others were, as was my nephew’s karate demonstration and Stern’s Chinese students, mechanistically perfect, but lacked any sense of artistry. There are homes that are unfortunately perfect for such Mezuzot; the homes in which everyone mechanistically observes all the Mitzvot, but lack any artistry or passion in their observance.

The second paragraph of Shema addresses the difference between the mechanic and the artist. “It will be that if you hearken to My commandments that I command you today, to love God, your Lord, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 11:13) This verse adds an element missing from the first paragraph of Shema: “and to serve Him.” This verse challenges us to express our love for God through our service of Him. The service mentioned is not that of the mechanic, but of the artist, who finds way to express love in every aspect of his Avodah.

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