Creativity ( יצירה- yetzira) is a middah and positive character trait that is central to human flourishing. Albert Einstein said that “creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else has ever thought.” There is a Hassidic story about a crack found in the King’s secret diamond that exemplifies what Einstein was talking about.
In the many variations of the story, there is a secret jewel that the king has kept and on some special occasion he takes out the precious jewel and it falls and becomes damaged. Jewelers from all around the kingdom examine the otherwise perfect gemstone, but obvious to all of them is the deep crack running through the heart of the stone at ragged angels.
“Then cut it into smaller stones,” orders the king, but none of the jewelers feel up to the task. They can find no way to cut the stone and preserve enough facets for the smaller stones to be harvested and preserve any semblance of balanced facets so that they could sparkle in a way still befitting the king.
The jewelers were stumped and the king was heartbroken until a young jeweler from the farthest and poorest corner of the kingdom came.
“May I take a look,” the simple jeweler asked? Begrudgingly they allowed him to hold the diamond. He held it up to the light, turned it this way and that. “It has a crack in it,” he said. The king’s court laughed. “But I know what to do,” he continued, and the room fell silent.
With permission from the king, the poor, young jeweler took the gemstone, and instead of cutting the stone into smaller stones, he kept the practically perfect diamond and etched rose petals to one end of the crack which now took on the appearance of the rose’s stem.
It seems that the creative process, even for God at the beginning of Bereshiet, is a function of adding or changing form from what seems, at first glance, broken or formless. “When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was unformed and void (tohu vavohu), and there was darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water. (Gen. 1:1). Where there formlessness, there was now form. We live in a universe that is in constant change, and our task is to rise to the task of creating form where there is formlessness and to shape the world’s broken pieces into works of art.
The best way for us to ‘make our lives a work of art’ is to give some focus the middah of Yetzira (creativity).
Think about it/מחשבה-
Think about a ‘broken experience’, something that you are working on, perhaps for school, perhaps something else, that is not going well. Is there another way to look at it? How many different ways of looking at the problem are there. Sometimes we are stuck because we’re lacking different perspectives. Yetzira can help.
Creativity means meeting today’s challenge in a different way tomorrow – since whatever we tried did not work. Central to Yetzira, is the necessity of stepping back and then trying again in a different way. One time this week, when you feel stuck on something you are trying to accomplish, step back from your work. But, before you do, determine to come right back to the task in a few minutes and start the task in a different place. For example, if it’s a paper you are writing and you are stuck in a body paragraph, come back and write a strong concluding sentence. If you are working on a song or a painting, come back and work on a different verse or a different corner of the canvas. The new starting point often helps creativity flow to the rest of our project.