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The Real Deal

A countess in London recently decided to downsize and move from her stately manor to a small cottage. In doing so, she put her vast estate up for auction, including antique furniture, carpets and classic paintings. Among the works of art was a copy of a painting by English landscape painter John Constable, which sold for just £3,500 (around $5,200).

But the buyer had the painting professionally restored and reevaluated, and it was deemed by art experts to be an original Constable. It was resold at an auction, and its price shot up to $5.2 million.

You may ask what value a real painting has over a copy, if even the experts have difficulty telling them apart. Why should anyone care? But art aficionados do care. They want to know if the piece of art they own is the real deal. They care about authenticity. They care about giving credit where credit is due.

**

Jewish law is teeming with complex rituals surrounding items that, on their face, are indistinguishable. Can you really tell a kosher chicken from an unkosher one, if you buy it off a supermarket shelf? What about a kosher mezuzah, or kosher Torah scroll? It takes an expert to make that determination—but really, why does it matter? Why should we care?

We live in a world that does not readily reveal its author. Some experts argue that the world shows no evidence of design, no trace of an organizing intelligence. Others look at the same world and insist that it obviously has a Creator—every element in this world is a reflection of His design, His plan, His desires.

For now the debate has yet to be settled conclusively. It comes down to choice—do I wish to believe in a Creator? All these abstract concepts such as kosher and unkosher, pure and impure, holy and unholy—it takes an expert to determine which is which, but it’s our choice to care.

And care we do. Throughout history we have fought ferociously to hold on to these ideals, so ethereal and difficult to communicate. Our souls sense holiness and cry out for truth.

Soon it won’t be a matter of choice anymore. Just as G-d chose to hide Himself in this world, He will remove Himself from hiding. We won’t need proof—we will see the Master Himself, and we will recognize that everything we see is His exquisite handiwork.


 

 


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