I’m always on the look-out for commentary I can read while the Torah’s chanted in Hebrew I don’t understand during Saturday morning Shabbat services. So when I came across The Artist’s Torah by David Ebenbach, also the author of two short story collections and a book of poetry, I was grateful to have new material to delve into.
But you don’t need to attend religious services to enjoy Ebenbach’s thoughtful book. And you don’t need to be an artist. Anyone interested in the creative process will find something meaningful in this rich commentary that explores the weekly Torah readings through the gaze of understanding the creative life.
In a recent interview with Ebenbach (who crossed paths with me 15 years ago when we both attended an MFA in writing program), he said, “The intention is not that you have to be traditionally religious to find yourself in these pages,” and added, “The book wrestles with what it means to be spiritually engaged and doesn’t make any assumptions about the form that takes.”
Ebenbach poses the big questions: What is creativity? Where does it come from? How does creativity get blocked and how can blocks be overcome? He sets out to find what the sacred text of Judaism has to say in response. In addition, he presents the challenge of whether he can find insights throughout the Torah and not just in Genesis with the explicit focus on creation.