God is in the Details
First, in the explanation of how to build a dwelling, God includes the smallest details, from the number of sheets of fabric to be used, through the types of fabric, their size and how to attach them, to the shape of the copper hooks, the type of wood to use, the direction it should face, and so on… and a question always forms itself in my mind: Why does a being so great, deal with such tiny detail?
Perhaps some of you came up with the same answer that occurred to me – God is in the details – right? But that answer didn’t satisfy me.
The second thing is the definition of the artists, the people who do the work. God asks Moshe for Bezalel (which I can appreciate, seeing as the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem bears his name), and Eliav, and every wise-hearted man and woman to whom God gave wisdom and insight to perform holy service. Artists then are defined as those who have wisdom of the heart.
And thirdly: We’ll save the surprise for last.
I believe that the answers to my three points contain within them a definition that answers the question: What is an artist?
Precision of detail builds a complete picture whose small detailed components are, paradoxically, unseen (think of a puzzle, or a collage). Nor is it important that we see them at first glance. The aim of the details is to create together a surface or space that conveys an ambiance, or transmits a feeling. Once we’ve had the experience of our first impression, if we maintain focus in the same place, then we begin to delve into the details and we discover colors, shapes, and textures. And so, gradually, the small details reveal themselves before our eyes.
The ability to holistically combine color, texture, objects, décor, doorways, walls, lighting, and all the other components of a structure, into one complete unity – that is art.
It’s very much like nature. It includes forest wildlife, winged creatures, plants, trees, humans, mountains, hills, valleys, colors, aromas, flavors – and all together, these make up one amazing creation.
The art of combining all these elements can only be created through the wisdom of the heart, as opposed to the wisdom of the mind.
So what is the wisdom of the heart?
Every person has 4 main centers of knowledge:
• The mind – rational knowledge
• The heart – emotional knowledge
• The stomach – intuitive knowledge
• The lower abdomen – knowledge based on urge and desire; this is instinct, sensual impulse, and creativity
The mind asks, why. It investigates, ever curious and doubting, never ceasing to consider. It has the ability to analyze and explain. The mind needs proof in order to be sure of its knowing. It needs to see with its own eyes and to hear with its own ears. Its knowledge depends on external factors to justify its thoughts and understandings.
But our heart knows through feeling. It needs no proof. When you feel, you know. So too with intuition and creativity, or the motivation to act driven by impulse. There lies the internal wisdom and knowledge that is difficult to argue with, because for a person who feels, this is his truth and there is no other.
If this is so, then the ability for precision and integration of various details in such a way as to produce an area with a consistent ambiance, while also providing breathing space, is related to our ability to sense and to feel.
We’ve now arrived at the third thing:
After five whole chapters, describing in the minutest detail what materials to use and how to use them, it says in Exodus, “And thus is completed the work of the dwelling…” But the word in Hebrew, the original language of the Bible, for “completed” offers an additional meaning. The word contains within it the word for “intention” or “purpose”, the message being, it is important to remember why we built this dwelling and what its purpose or intention is.
With the work completed and its intention known, God comes down and covers the dwelling with his shelter and fills it with the breath of his spirit – “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”
What then is a dwelling? A home? A structure?
It is a creation that contains the wisdom of the heart, and all its details are filled with intention and soul.And in fact, that is also the definition of Feng Shui – the infusion of a spiritual dimension into a dwelling.
For me, this is so very moving. It adds another dimension to the meaning of a home or a workplace. Your home is your holy tabernacle. Nothing less.