There was once a Greek sculptor named Metros who was commissioned to make a statue to be set against the wall in one of the rooms of a Temple in Athens. Metros used only the best and most expen-sive tools for the task; and he gave care and devotion to every inch of the statue.
A friend asked him: “I can understand why you work so hard on the front side of the statue for that will be seen; but why must you work so hard on the back? It will be up against a wall; and no one will see it anyway.” The artist’s answer was: “The gods see everywhere.”
It was a wise answer for it expresses the truth that a real artist does not create in order to impress, but to express himself. If his aim were only to impress others, then it would have been enough for this artist to work on the visible part of the statue; but if the goal was to express his innermost self, then the work of art had to be right, both inside and out.
I do not know if Metros knew the Bible or not. I doubt it for the Bible had not yet penetrated into Greece in his time. But I think that if he had read it, he would have understood and responded to at least one truth. The Bible does not come to teach us the art of sculpture or the art of painting; it is interested in the art of living. But there is one line in Torah that is directly parallel to the story of Metros. It is in the Book of Exodus where the building of the Holy Ark is described. Moses is told that the ark will be made of cedar wood and then covered with pure gold, both inside and out – out-side where the people can see it and inside where no one but God will know. Both must be made of the same pure material; and both must be treated with the same care and devotion.
On this verse, the sages of the Midrash made a simple comment. They said: “From this we learn that whoever wishes to be considered a disciple of the wise has to be the same kind of person, inside and out. He cannot be impressive and ostentatious in his piety when people are looking and a scoundrel when no one else will know.”
There is a word in the English language that has its origin in the same concept. It is the word sincere. It comes from two Latin words: sine and cera, which mean without wax. When artists were commissioned to produce a work of sculpture, those who were honest would use pure marble. Those who were fraudulent would use superior material in front, where people could see; and they would use inferior material in back and then patch up the holes with wax. For this reason, when a work was completed, the artist would attest to the quality of his work by signing that it had been done sincerely; that is, without wax.
When we come before our judge at the end of our lives and show God the work of art that we have produced, ewhich is our life, may each of us be able to say that what-ever we have made of ourselves was done sincerely. May we be able to say that we were the same kind of people inside and out, in public and in private, where every-one could see and be impressed and where only God could see. If we can say that, then like Metros of Greece and like Bezalel who built the ark of gold, we will have pro-duced a work of art that will be counted as truly sacred.
With warmth and affection,