Many evil and depraved men misuse music as an excitant in order to plunge into earthly delights, instead of raising themselves by means of it to the contemplations of God and to praise His glories. (Victoria – Greatest of Spanish 16th Century composers, whose works are uncommonly exciting – 1581)
My father zt”l often remarked on the non-coincidental similarity between the Hebrew word “Naivel” – lyre – and “Naval” – a disgusting person. It takes great genius and creativity to make great musical instruments and music. As with everything else, we choose how to use our creative genius.
The Tower of Babel did not begin as a building project. “Come let us make bricks and burn them in fire.” (Genesis 11:3) They decided to build their city and tower only after they had the bricks.
Why did they make the bricks? These are the first bricks in the Bible story. People were using stones to build their homes and cities. They took what was there, what God had provided, and they used whatever was available. The construction of the Tower began with a desire to create something new, bricks. They would no longer be directly dependent on what God provided. Their creativity allowed them, in their minds, to be one step removed from God. They still needed the materials He provided to make the bricks, but their new invention was theirs.
They did not appreciate that creativity is a gift from God. We emulate God when we create; “In the beginning, the Lord created.” They used their creativity as an expression of independence, a way to break free from their Creator.
They used something that should have brought them closer to God to attempt to break free. Rather than celebrate this gift and appreciate that God nurtures our creativity and independence, they acted as teenagers, resented God, and severed the relationship.
The natural consequence was the severing of their relationships.
When two chavrutot – Torah study partners – argue over a complex idea in the Talmud, creative sparks fly. Passions rise. They will do great battle with each other. Anyone, unfamiliar with Chavrutah study, observing the scene, will wonder whether the two partners will kill each other. The observer will be certain that the two have destroyed their relationship.
The study period ends. The two chavrutot shut their holy books and they walk out of the Beit Midrash as great friends. Their creative minds clashed. They waged a terrible fight. The relationship has not been severed, but nurtured. They both realize that each pushed the other to be more creative. They help each other grow. They are eternally connected through their creativity.
Abraham was a creative genius who challenged the world. Although we would expect the “Ivri,” the one from the other side, to have lost his relationships, we find the opposite: Abraham – Av Hamon Goyim – A father of a multitude of nations. People streamed to his doors to be fed physically and spiritually. His creativity did not sever relationships; it nurtured them.
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