Have you heard the term “hiddur mitzvah”? It means Beautify or Enhance the Mitzvah – we should go above and beyond as we seek to fulfill a commandment of G-d. That is why we have such gorgeous objects in our synagogues and homes that we use to fulfill G-d’s commandments surrounding our observance. The sages’ understanding of Exodus 15:2 “…This is my G-d and I will glorify him…” was that it was an exhortation to beautify the commandments in the most glorious fashion. We can look to G-d’s instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and the Temple and see that He delights in beautiful things. He is not chintzy or cheap.
Now before you go getting upset and saying that G-d doesn’t have to have flashy stuff and expect you to spend a lot of money, you’re right. It’s not about expense or sparkle. G-d appreciates beauty in all its forms, from minimal to lavish. What is important in the implementation of Hiddur Mitzvah is the spirit behind it. We are to do our best – to bring our best to G-d. We should hold nothing back as we present ourselves and our lives to him. The real life application of that is as varied as we are as people. Some of us have a more simple aesthetic. Some of us are more bright and flashy. Your budget may not allow for sterling silver shabbat candlesticks, but a handpainted, dollar store version is just as beautiful when it’s an expression of your love for G-d and desire to serve him in all you do.
That being said, I want to introduce you to the Temple Aron HaKodesh Esther Tea. I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker in Ft. Lauderdale, FL with the most phenomenal women and their beautiful Rebbetzin Ilene Vitkus, who is a dear friend of mine! After seeing what these ladies do to transform their oneg room, I think they should call it the Esther Experience!
This year’s theme was Purim in Paradise and the place was AH-MAZ-ING!!! They can give lessons in hiddur mitzvah! Every table has a hostess who is responsible for decorating her table and side tea service, providing little goodies for her guests, and helping to make the day spectacular. The whole room was a feast for the eyes, transformed by hundreds of (wo)man hours from dedicated congregants. The food – to die for – and all cooked by them! The teens graciously served. I could go on and on and on about how wonderful it was! Their devotion to serving in love was heartwarming. I was so blessed to be able to experience it. The photos do not do it justice. I hope this inspires you to branch out and do something beautiful. You don’t have to shoot for this level – it’s taken them years to get here – but maybe you can create a day and space that you use as an outreach to the community. Showing our unbelieving friends and family the lavish love of G-d and how he inspires us to love them in our service to them is a great witness of who we are and who G-d has called us to be. If you’re in the Ft. Lauderdale, FL area, or know someone who is, I highly recommend Temple Aron HaKodesh – beautiful leaders, beautiful worship, beautiful people! (See photos from me in the slideshow below and on their website: taklife.org)
If you would like to have your party, celebration, shindig, or holiday hiddur mitzvah featured on Neshama, send me your information at firstname.lastname@example.org.