Shlomo Ezagui

Picasso or a Digital picture?

Tobias Rademacher

A young man began his return journey back to his spiritual roots and asked Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “Rabbi, why is it so difficult? Why do I constantly have hardships, difficulties coping…?”

The Rebbe replied, “We are not angels, we are human beings. Angels have no tests and temptations; they worship the Almighty without difficulty. But we have been given trials and tribulations to use them as ladders, to climb and rise.”

The young man did not understand what the Rebbe meant, and instead of explaining, the Rebbe asked him, “What do you like best?” What are your hobbies?” “I love art, especially paintings,” the man replied.

“Who is your favorite artist?” Asked the Rebbe. “Picasso,” he said. “And what Picasso painting do you like best?” the Rebbe continued. The guy described “Sunset,” his favorite painting in the world.

“In the painting, one sees the beach.” The sun is setting, a couple of kids are playing in the sand, and an old couple is walking in their direction. ‘Sunset’ tells me a lot. It has a lot of meaning. The symbolism of the sun going down and the hope that tomorrow it rises again, the kids play and do not even relate to the elderly couple walking beside them. A generation goes, and a generation comes. This gives me a lot of thoughts and feelings.”

“And how much is this painting worth?” asked the Rebbe. “It sold at a public auction at Sotheby’s for eight million dollars,” the fellow said.

Asks the Rebbe, “If, as Picasso painted, someone with a camera simply snapped the magnificent picture at sunset with the children, the elderly… what do you think would be more accurate? The painting by Picasso or the picture from the camera?” “Clearly the picture,” the young man said.

“And how much do you think the picture would be worth?” The young man answered immediately, “They sell postcards of similar pictures for twenty-five cents.”

The Rebbe asked him, “Tell me, how is it that people are paying millions of dollars for the painting, and the picture barely fetches twenty-five cents?”

“You know why?” said the Rebbe. “A camera cannot make mistakes. It is a machine. On the other hand, humans can make errors and mistakes, so his creations are worth eight million dollars.”

When a painter paints, he invests all of his being into the painting. He gives his feelings and his perspective. You can see and feel his soul and his experiences because he puts himself in the picture. But the camera is just a robot when it comes down to it.

In the same way, the Almighty God has billions of angels who never make mistakes, but they are not as valuable as human beings exercising free choice. The prayers of Angels are not worth as much as those of men who “Acknowledge God, proclaim His name, make His deeds known, sing to Him, chant to Him, speak of all His wonders.”

The Rebbe concluded, “All the failures and tribulations you described are not meant to knock you down but to delight you even more. Because every time you fail, you are reminded that you are a human being on a journey of continuous improvement. If you cannot pray properly one time, then your prayers will be better the next time you exert yourself. You will have improved yourself and added value to yourself. Your failures are the fuel and fodder to make (extra and more) light!”

Let me end this article with a saying: “What gives light must be able to burn.”

Chapter 212

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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