Why Jewish Artists Need To Rebel Against “Holiness”

It’s called the holy yetzer hara. The holy “evil voice”.

Ever heard of it?

It’s like a rabbi who convinces you not to eat kosher. A rebbe who convinces you that you’re being holy if you attack and degrade another person.

It’s lies wrapped in a voice of velvet beauty.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where the holy yetzer hara has gotten stronger than ever.

The best example of this is the voice inside of most Jewish artists.

“I can’t share this with the world! It might hurt me. It might hurt my family. I can’t do that!”

“Being too personal isn’t tznius! Being open is dangerous!”

“Better to focus on praying. On Torah study. Yes, yes, then I’ll be holy.”

“My kids need me. I can’t take any time out of my day to do a lick of art. No no, maybe in a few years.”

The voice infects us.

For whatever reason, people have decided that, even if they feel a connection to art, they shouldn’t pursue it because, well, it’s just not a holy thing for them to do.

It’s always sad to me when I hear this holy yetzer hara, especially when people believe in it so much that they articulate it, defend it, argue it.

Even worse, their rabbis, mentors, teachers, parents, encourage it. People that would rather play it safe than let their charges take a risk.

But here’s the thing. G-d gave you an ability. A desire. A feeling that this is something you want to do.

Higher than logic. Higher than being (culturally) frum. Higher than physical reality.

The desire, that drive, in you is real. And when you ignore it, you are ignoring a feeling G-d gave you. A feeling G-d demands that you grab, hold, and strangle.

All those thoughts that your time would be better spent doing this holy thing or that holy thing: that’s like the people that think they don’t need to work, but instead should be studying Torah all day.

Sure, there are some folks that need to study Torah all day. But most don’t. Most are charged by G-d to go out into the world.

It’s a lie that sounds holy. And so you listen to it, because it’s safe to listen to it, and because maybe your mentor or rabbi is telling you the same thing. Maybe your husband doesn’t get it. Or your parents discourage it. Either way, they’re all reenforcing that voice.

Ignore them. They have their own yetzer haras too, ya know. And I’m sure they want the best for you.

But only you know you. Only you understand what drives you, what moves you.

And if you want to make art, that’s a holy thing.

As holy as a person that goes out and works for a living to feed his family. Is that person off the derech because he isn’t studying 8 hours a day? G-d forbid. He’s leading the life G-d wants him to live.

So, if you are listening to that yetzer hara, and you think it’s holy… it’s time to rebel. It’s time to fight.

Not because there is something wrong with you. Not because you are disconnecting from G-d. Not because you aren’t connected to truth.

But because of the opposite. Because you know that it would be a sin not to use the strengths G-d gave you. Because you realize that just because something sounds holy doesn’t mean it is. And just because other people think something isn’t holy doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.