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Blessed Art

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Beautifying Ritual Objects

Brenda Kaldenbach from Holland wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Why are we commanded to make our ritual objects beautiful? I am a Jewish graphic designer and illustrator, and I am specialized in making ketubot [marriage contract document]. I help thus to make ritual objects beautiful. I know that one is supposed to make ritual objects beautiful, but I want to understand why. I know that it is a part of Jewish tradition, to make a nice table for Shabbat, for example, but also when I pass this on to my children I want to explain to them why it is done.


Dear Brenda Kaldenbach,

Someone who fulfills a commandment has done what Hashem demands of him. However, because of our great desire to go beyond that which is demanded of us 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.

Here's an analogy. 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.


 
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