Is Talmud Art Kosher?

Art is in the eye of the beholder. Pages from old books are placed in glasses, and voila they become art.

Holiness is also in the eye of the beholder. Old printed books contain words from ancient rabbis, and voila they become sacred.

Ynet reports that in Tel Aviv there has been a, "Gallery threatened over Talmud artwork." They explain that the, "Rabbinate vows to stop exhibition of works created by French artist, using pages of ancient rabbinic writings. Display 'desecrates Holy Scriptures,' says Chief Rabbi Metzger"

And so we have a Talmudic dispute about Talmud art.

Yes, according to the artist, Talmud art is Kosher.

But no, according to the rabbis, Talmud art is not kosher. It is a desecration.

Talmudic Analysis
The photo of the art shows a page from a book of medieval responsa, legal decisions from the rabbis of the middle ages. Sure, it's always dignified to treat books with religious themes (or for that matter any themes) with proper respect. However, the books in question are not "Holy Scriptures." Looking at some of the words in the text in the photo, these appear to be discussions about writing contracts. Nothing holy about that.

Art that intends to desecrate is usually quite up front about it. We recall one exhibit in New York City of Chris Ofili's "Holy Virgin Mary" in 1999, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, "that featured sexually explicit cutouts covered with elephant dung." Other art that could be criticized or censured by religious authorities because it intends to desecrate include, "Piss Christ" by Andres Serrano and Renée Cox's "Yo Mama's Last Supper," all as described with images of the art on a "controversial works of art" web page.

This Talmud art in question does not rise to the level of desecration or sacrilege and does not seem to us to be in bad taste. Hence we deem it kosher. Further we deem the rabbinic objections to the works to be quite out of place and without merit, Hence those rabbinic objections are themselves a desecration.

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