Is There a Jewish Art, and Does It Require the Beis Hamikdash?

See Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ essay here. After translating Moreh Hanevuchim (who, predictably, mocks art), he says this:

In his book The Body of Faith (1983), Michael Wyschogrod makes a stronger case for the aesthetic dimension of Judaism. Throughout history, he argues, art and cult have been intimately connected and Judaism is no exception. “The architecture of the Temple and its contents demand a spatial thinking that stimulates the visual arts as nothing else does. It must be remembered that among the many artefacts past civilisations have left behind, those intended for ritual use almost are always the most elaborate and aesthetically the most significant.”

Wyschogrod says that postbiblical Judaism did not, for the most part, make outstanding contributions to art and music. Even today, the world of religious Jewry is remote from that of the great writers, painters, poets and dramatists. To be sure, there is a wealth of popular religious music. But by and large, he says, “our artists tend to leave the Jewish community.” This he believes represents a spiritual crisis. “The imagination of the poet is a reflection of his spiritual life. Myth and metaphor are the currency both of religion and poetry. Poetry is one of the most powerful domains in which religious expression takes place. And the same is true of music, drama, painting, and dance.”

Rav Abraham Kook hoped that the return to Zion would stimulate a renaissance of Jewish art, and there is a significant place for beauty in the religious life, especially in Avodah, “service,” which once meant sacrifice and now means prayer.

Rabbi Hirsch also has much to say about Jewish art, see here for one example.

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