What a Beautiful Mitzvah!

Question

Why are we commanded to make our ritual objects beautiful? I am a Jewish graphic designer and illustrator, and I specialize in making ketubot [marriage contract documents]. Thank you.

7 months

Answers

  1. Let’s say a wife tells her husband she wants a gold necklace for her birthday. The husband is faced with many possibilities: Did she mean a nine karat gold necklace that costs $18? Or a twenty-two karat, diamond-encrusted necklace for $18,000? Or something in between?

    The answer is: If the husband just wants to “do his duty,” he only needs to buy the $18 necklace. If, however, he wants to show his wife how dear she is to him, and how much he loves her, he will buy the most beautiful necklace he can afford.

    This is an analogy to mitzvah observance and the beautiful way we try to do a mitzvah. Someone who fulfills a commandment has done, in a basic sense, what God asks. However, because of our great desire to go beyond that which is required, the possibility exists to enhance each mitzvah by beautifying it beyond the letter of the Law. Therefore, the Torah tells us that we should perform the commandments in a beautiful manner.

    This idea of “beautifying a mitzvah” is actually taught in the Torah. The verse states, “This is My God, and I will glorify Him.” (Exodus 15:2) Our rabbinical sages of millennia ago teach that this alludes to the importance of doing a mitzvah in a beautiful way.

    The beauty of a mitzvah is expressed both in the appearance of the object used for the mitzvah and in the way of doing the mitzvah. For example, holding a shiny silver Kiddush cup and reciting the Kiddush blessing with a beautiful melody.

    The Torah and its mitzvahs are intrinsically beautiful. “Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.” (Proverbs 3:17) A life of Judaism helps guide us in developing a beautiful relationship with God and with each other.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team