Lesson Plan #22

Aim: Greek culture

Vocabulary: Hellensim, ionic columns, sculpture, realism, theater, literature,

Discussion: Yesterday we discussed Greek Philosophy, today we will discuss other parts of Greek and mainly Athenian culture

Motivation: Question: What is the best way that you like to relax? Chances are that the things that help you relax and “enjoy” come from the ancient Athenians. So let’s discuss those things that you mentioned and see what their roots are.

1)      Discuss Greek architecture (Ionic columns, big cavernous rooms with tall graceful beams lining the sides and many steps leading up to the entrance-take for example the big museum buildings of Manhattan-the museum of Natural history for example)[1] (all footnotes are just a collection of notes on the topic that I have found that can connect to the topic. I leave to the teacher to decide what they wish to choose to connect to the secular material.)

2)      Sculpture[2], (realism- asur according to the torah) many ancient Greeks made busts of themselves which preserved their features for time immemorial.

3)      Painting[3]: the Greeks were not that into art through the medium of painting except of jars for storage where they had many scenes of daily Greek life depicted.

4)      Literary Dramas and theater[4]- tragedies and comedies. A famous comedian writer was Aristophanes who wrote works such as the Clouds and Sophocles who produced such plays as Oedipus

5)      History: Thucydides the father of History who did a critical analysis of history by interviewing many sources although they may have been wrong themselves.

6)      Sports[5]- began with the Greeks playing unclothed in stadiums and originally a tribute to the Avoda Zara’s of the times.


[1] architecture: we see from Chazal at the end of succah (tosefta 4:6) that much thought was put into the buildings of beautiful shuls. In addition from the details spent on building the Bais Hamikdash in Melachim 1:7-9 we see the importance of architecture. Also Chazal praised the beauty of the Bais Hamikdash in Bava Bathra (4a)  But Chazal in Rosh hashana (and its paskened so in Yoreh deah 141:8) that one may not copy aspects of the Bais Hamikdash and its Keilim. Also see the mechaber in OC 150:2 where it talks about buildings that were created for beauty and not for functional purposes and that they can be taller than the highest shul in town.

[2] In regards to sculpture we find in Melachim 10:18-20 and targum shen on megillas esther (beginning) that the throne of Shlomo had many sculptures on it. The question is lichaora it is asur because of tzuros assuros? Also why isn’t it a problem of looking at it because of al tifnu el midatchem that chazal bring down in (Shabbos 149a)? One must say like Tosfos there that it was only avoda zara that was assured. See also the Teshuva of Rav Kook (daas Kohen YD #65)

[3] Art: As is well known much of Art is problematic due to the fact that the Torah assures making graven images of many objects.

(The following quotes in these parenthesis are from sources collected from the book by Vivian Mann in her book Jewish texts on the visual arts. The yerushalmi in Avoda Zara 3:1 says bishem Rav Yehonson that people began to decorate their shuls with pictures and he was not moche. The Chasam Sofer was moche over a tombstone with an engraving of a human on it teshuva 19? )

Those that are included in the issur include the making of humans, images of angels and other heavenly creatures, the sun and the moon (141:4) even if it is for art if the pictures are bolet but if they are just pictures its mutar (mechaber  yoreh deah siman 141:4, shach:25) some say even if it is not bolet (taz:12 bishem haramban) and the halacha is like the ramban (taz)(see siman 90 aruch hashulchan who only writes that it is nachon not to make pictures of humans on the walls of your house either-its mashma not like the Taz but like the shach also see there Pischei teshuva (#7) bishem the yaaros divash who also discourages paintings on the walls of houses but does not prohibit it)Yet the issur of making pictures that are bolet is only where the whole body is drawn but where part of the body is missing its mutar.(shach:25 Mechaber, Rama 141:7) But someone who is machmir even in this is tovoi alav beracha (shach:32, pishchei teshuva bishem shlah:11) In shuls: see siman 90 in orach chayim that one should make pictures above three amos (MB 90:71,AH 28) Animals, birds, fish, trees, etc. are mutar even if the tzura sticks out. (Rabbenu Elyukim holds that even these animals are assur even if it is shukua (minhag yisroel Torah 90:4)) The shach says that the zodiac animals are assur all together but the lion by itself is mutar. Yet in Chazal we do see some art forms that were boilet- Chazal in (Bava Kamma 97b) where we find the idea that on the back of the Avraham coin was a picture of a man and one side a woman. Yet see tosfos there that explains not that a form of them were on the coin rather the words Avraham and Sarah were there.

[4] Theater: see magen avraham (siman shin zayin:22) which says that one may not go to aטראטיאות . This is based on the Gemara in (Avoda Zara:18b) that says you can’t go to טראטיאות. The simple meaning is theater. Chazal in Yerushalmi (berachos 4:2) also quotes a tefila that those that go theater will go to gehenom. See the magen avraham in siman 224:3 that even to Jewish gatherings of simcha of entertainment is assur because of moshav leitzim. See there M.B:3 who qoutes the MA. See the Aruch hashulchan:3 who qoutes the Bach bishem sefer haeshkol who says that anyone that goes to them will not be zoche to be there bishas the  liviyason and shor habor fight. See also the Gedulas Yehonason page 90 where he qoutes Rav Yonason Eibishutz who also spoke out against the practice of going to theater and identified theater as going to “tiatroas” Yet it is known that the Ramchal made a play for a theater in which he incorporated elements of machshava and Torah into it. (Licharoa if the theater is used to help be marbitztorah and yiras shamayim then it would be mutar)

[5] As is understood the tragedy’s and issurim in this are included in Theatros already mentioned in the previous footnote plus the issur of erva. Etc.