This evening, we explore Wisdom in the context of Creativity and Understanding — and delve into Korczak and the Children by Erwin Sylvanus.
We began this evening with Rabbi Steinberger. She was inspired by a session she attended with Dr. Erica Brown, titled “Unleashing your Creativity as a Jewish Leader”. To begin with, Dr. Brown defines Creativity as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” In the past few weeks in our torah readings, we have reviewed the building of the Mishkan, in which sections we also explore creativity and its concomitant wisdom. In Shemot (Exodus) 31:1-5, verse 3 specifically…three different words are used to mean “wisdom”, Chachma, Bina and Da’at.
In English we translate these words as Wisdom, Understanding (intuition plus experience) and Knowledge (referring to the “Aha!” moments of inspiration)…but they all imply something intrinsic accompanying something learned.
These are all ways that an artist receives wisdom.
There is a story about Daniel — who attributed all his wisdom to G-d. Daniel was considered wise — because he said that the wisdom was from G-d. Should he have not made this attribution — then perhaps people would not have thought of him thus…but it was his humility which was part of his wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar said that Daniel was wise indeed…because he attributed his wisdom to the Divine.
There is an attribution to wisdom which is part of the heart. It is thought that wisdom of the mind alone — without wisdom of the heart is worthless (Aaron of Karlin).
From BT Brakhot 55a: Rabbi Yohanan states: “The Holy One, blessed be He, imparts wisdom only to those who already possess it”.
The people of Israel were wandering in the desert when they were commanded to build the Mishkan. HaShem said to them “When you build it, I will dwell among you”.
In order to build the mishkan, the people were asked to give of themselves, to give of their hearts. Their wise hearts…
And yes, they did build the Golden Calf — which did not come from their wisdom, it came from their hunger and their greed. When it was time for them to build the Mishkan….the people did also give their gold –but this time, the intention in the giving was from the heart — in a wise-hearted way.
Now it was time for Dr. Bob Skloot to introduce Korczak and the Children.
Bob suggested that some of the themes of the play might be — how do we obtain wisdom?…and how do we bring ourselves to knowledge? Dr. Janusz Korczak was a Polish Jew — a Jew and a Pole — a Jewish Pole — who was born in the 1870’s. He was a pediatrician — a doctor, a children’s author…and he ran an orphanage for Jewish children in the 1920’s. He maintained his connected to the children of the orphanage even during the war…and even when the orphanage was moved to the ghetto. He also had a call-in radio show and was known as the Radio Doctor.
Dr. Korczak believed that all children were equal — that all were blessed — and that all are preyed upon, in some way, by adults.
He was a prominent figure in education in the Republic of Poland at that time. He based his ideas on children are all equal to each other — and equal to adults. At one point during the war Korczak has to beg for food for the children of the orphanage. He stays with them…they are ‘his’ children.
Then…in 1942, he is still head of the orphanage when he is offered freedom by the Nazis in exchange for preparing the children to be deported to the camps. He turned them down.
It is said that Korczak never lied in his life — except for the one lie he told for love.
He loved the children — told them that they were going on holiday — and they each packed a small bag with a toy — and they went off together, Korczak and the children, to Treblinka, walking in formation and singing songs.
He gave them courage.
He gave them love.
This play was written by a German soldier. It was the first one written in German after the Holocaust. The playwright asks us: “what is true and what is something when it is a lie?”
Under certain circumstances, can one be another?
Korczak, indeed, is thought of as one of the few heroes of that time.
The playwright dares us to live a happy and pure life — we live only once — and we should live for love. Bob suggests that the playwright lies to the audience — and in some ways, indicts them for their guilt.
In truth, like Korczak, we create ourselves in our daily acts.
We are formed….in the moments we are tested.