By Gerald M. Schreck
“No part of the human personality should be excluded from Jewish expression” (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok HaKohen Kook’s introduction to Song of Songs). Indeed, while halachah sets clear boundaries regarding permissible and impermissible art, there is no question that art, music, aesthetics and creativity play a pivotal role in Jewish life. We need look no further than the parshiyot describing the construction of the mishkan to see the importance of art and aesthetic beauty in avodat Hashem. True, over the centuries of galut (exile), religious Jews did not emphasize the creative arts. But one cannot help but notice that within the past few years there has evolved a small, albeit burgeoning, movement of Orthodox creativity. In the following pages, we present but a few of the growing number of religious Jews—including rosh yeshivah and novelist Haim Sabato and screenwriter/actor Shuli Rand—who are dedicating their innate talents to deepening and enriching their avodat Hashem.
In this issue, we also invited three prestigious scientists, some of whom are known to Jewish Action readers—Drs. Nathan Aviezer, Gerald Schroeder and Arnold Slyper—to debate the controversial topic of intelligent design. Specifically, we asked them: Should religious people believe in intelligent design? Should it be taught in public schools? What about yeshivot?
This issue also features a stirring account of one Jewish soldier’s experiences in Iraq. Severely wounded while on a mission, Adam Campbell temporarily lost the use of his legs and spent over a year in the hospital. Nevertheless, his belief in God and his commitment to Judaism never wavered. We at the Orthodox Union take special pride in this young soldier’s story of faith and courage because we have known Adam since he was in the sixth grade—Adam is an NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth) alumnus who continues to maintain a strong connection to his NCSY friends and mentors.
Aside from these major features, we offer our usual array of stimulating articles on Israel travel, kashrut information, halachah and so much more.
I would like to express a special thank you to all the letter writers who responded to the last issue and especially to the provocative article by Yaakov Eisen on his conflicted feelings about the Jewish State in the aftermath of the disengagement. We received many letters both condemning and supporting Eisen’s views, a sample of which we hope to publish in the next issue, God willing. We always appreciate feedback from our loyal readers, and we look forward to hearing from you.