David Gelernter on the Hebraic Spirit in Medieval Christian Art

In a conversation with David Gelernter, the groundbreaking computer scientist, artist, and polymath, David Mikics learns what’s Jewish about Gothic cathedrals:

Gelernter and I agreed that Jewishness is in political peril these days, at least in Europe. Jeremy Corbyn is a “bigot,” he told me, “the most revolting kind of human being.” According to Gelernter, “anti-Semitism comes naturally to Europeans,” but thankfully not to Americans. That wasn’t always the case: the great medieval cathedrals were infused with Hebraic inspiration; Jewishness was, he said, the “hand inside the puppet” of Christian Europe.

“My parents took me to Sainte-Chapelle when I was five years old, and it knocked my socks off,” Gelernter told me. “I’ve never had a day since when I haven’t thought about medieval art.” The art of the cathedrals, Gelernter argued, is Hebraic, with a vast empty space at the center that resembles the emptiness in the Temple’s Holy of Holies, the most fitting image of a transcendent God. And there’s the medieval idea of gallantry, which combines military bravery with piety in a way reminiscent of the Hebrew Bible. Judah Maccabee, Gelernter reminded me, was a central example of chivalry for the Middle Ages.

Gelernter loves the Basilica of Saint-Denis, “where Gothic art was invented in 1144.” “One late afternoon the gisants [tomb effigies] were eloquent, articulate; that’s how I decided to do the Jewish paintings I modeled after them.” He said, “I didn’t set out to be a Jewish painter like Marc Chagall, but one like Amedeo Modigliani or Chaim Soutine.” But, he added, Jewish themes are a bad idea for a painter, commercially speaking. “The Israeli art market is aggressively secular; there’s more interest in my paintings in Germany.”

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Architecture, Art, Arts & Culture, Christianity, Judaism, Middle Ages

 

A Lesson from Moshe Dayan for Israel’s Syria Policy

Dec. 11 2019

In the 1950s, Jerusalem tasked Moshe Dayan with combating the Palestinian guerrillas—known as fedayeen—who infiltrated Israel’s borders from Sinai, Gaza, and Jordan to attack soldiers or civilians and destroy crops. When simple retaliation, although tactically effective, proved insufficient to deter further attacks, Dayan developed a more sophisticated long-term strategy of using attrition to Israel’s advantage. Gershon Hacohen argues that the Jewish state can learn much from Dayan’s approach in combating the Iranian presence in Syria—especially since the IDF cannot simply launch an all-out offensive to clear Syria of Iranian forces:

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Moshe Dayan, Palestinian terror, Syria