Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rabbi Benjamin Blech's Lecture in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Today, between Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I would like to report on a recent outing that my wife and I had:
On August 28, we attended a presentation by Rabbi Benjamin Blech at the beautiful Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan. You may recall that several months ago I did a review of a book that Blech wrote (coauthored with Roy Doliner) called The Sistine Secrets. It was fascinating to hear Rabbi Blech speak to a sold-out audience at the Berman Center and to see the slides of the artwork that hold the hidden secrets. This was especially exciting because the Kindle version of the book that I read has no pictures! I was able to get his signature on another of his books that I bought.
He began his lecture by telling a story that I did not quote from before but would like to include here:
“[Pope Wojtila] invited to the Vatican one hundred and sixty rabbis and cantors from all over the world. Organizing the encounter was Pave the Way Foundation, an international, inter-religious association born out of the idea of creating and reinforcing bridges between the Jewish world and the Christian world. The purpose of the meeting was for the pope to receive a final blessing from the representatives of our “elder brothers and sisters,” while at the same time further strengthening the humanitarian ties between the two faiths.
This historic encounter turned out to be the very last audience of Pope Wojtila with any group. Three Jewish religious leaders had the privilege of being the first and only rabbis in the world to give a blessing to a pope in the name of the Jewish people. One of them was Benjamin Blech, coauthor of this volume, a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, an internationally noted teacher, lecturer, spiritual leader, and author of numerous books on spirituality read by people of all faiths."
Rabbi Blech mentioned that after the audience with the Pope, the group was given a special tour by a docent who knew about these secrets, because he saw them with Jewish eyes. Once the impact of what was being presented became clear to the group, they knew they needed to tell the world... back to the quote:
"This is the startling and provocative thesis that The Sistine Secrets will for the first time reveal—and forcefully demonstrate. It will show how Michelangelo incorporated into his religious masterpiece a stunning number of hidden messages to the Church of his time, messages that resonate to this day with their daring appeal for reconciliation between reason and faith, between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and among all those who share a sincere quest for true faith and service of God. Prepare to unlearn everything that you thought you knew about the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s masterpieces. Just as the recent cleaning of the frescoes removed layer after layer of tarnish and darkness accumulated over the centuries, this book will endeavor to remove centuries of prejudice, censorship, and ignorance from one of the world’s most famous and beloved art treasures...
How was Michelangelo able to accomplish this daring act? The authors reveal that at times, Michelangelo uses codes or symbolic allusions that are partially hidden; at times, signs that can only be picked up and understood by certain religious, political, or esoteric groups. Still other times, all one needs is a mind free from preconceptions and open to new suggestions or ideas in order to understand his messages. It is even more interesting to realize that these symbols and allusions were done without being recognized by his papal patron. They were audaciously conceived in order to alleviate the frustration of the artist who, unable to openly have his say, wanted somehow to “declare” his message.
For the first time in the history of the Sistine, Blech and Doliner make us understand just how Michelangelo was able to subvert the entire project in order to secretly promote his own ideals, especially those linked to humanism, Neo-Platonism, and universal tolerance.”
I encourage you to get the hardcover version of the book because its cover folds out to reveal a large, full color picture of the Sistine Chapel and inside are many closeups of the revealing details. Shalom

No comments:

Post a Comment