Photo Credit:
Rav Haim Sabato

Some people believe that authors and artists must have free range to express themselves – that expressing oneself is an end unto itself.  Others strenuously disagree. What’s your opinion?

I am among those who maintain that artistic expression that comes from inspiration is very valuable. Naturally, though, the more elevated the inner world of the writer, the more elevated the worlds expressed in his writing will be.

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How has the secular Israeli public reacted to your novels?

Amazingly. I’ve had responses from tens of thousands of readers. There’s no doubt that my books constitute a building block in Israel’s developing culture. I’m very pleased that I received warm reactions from both members of HaShomer HaTzair kibbutzim and mashgichim of haredi yeshivas in Bnei Brak.

In an interview in 2006 you were quoted as saying, “Publishing? For me it’s punishment…. due to the ensuing publicity. In the yeshiva we educate the students to find value in what is hidden.” It’s interesting you say that because in our society, promoting and selling oneself is highly valued and thought to be the only road to success.

Publicity and marketing have become such an intrinsic part of contemporary life that if someone does something without publicizing it, it’s as if he didn’t do it, and if he publicizes something without doing it, it’s as if he did it. In Jewish thought, however, it’s precisely the hidden tzaddik who is valued, and publicity, even if essential, is often regarded as a fate, or even a punishment, to be borne.

Publicity heightens external aspects and obscures deep inner worlds. Generally speaking, it’s superficial. These drawbacks are in addition to the self-destruction that publicity causes famous people who start regarding themselves in accordance with the public’s perception of them and who begin to shape their writings and public utterances based on how they will be accepted by others rather than their true worth.

What would you tell young Orthodox Jews interested in writing novels?

I would suggest that anyone who has an inner truth burning within and has the artistic tools to express it must do so with joy, not because he wishes to be famous. Of course, it goes without saying that he must adhere to all relevant halachic restrictions. Literature does not give one license to break the rules of modesty or the boundaries surroundings male-female matters.

It’s possible to write profound, beautiful, and significant works – on both the internal and external world – from within the all-encompassing perspective of the Torah.

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Elliot Resnick is the former chief editor of The Jewish Press and the author and editor of several books including, most recently, “Movers & Shakers, Vol. 3.”