Making Commandments Beautiful: Part I

June 21, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, June 21, 2013. 

Making Commandments Beautiful: Part I

There is a traditional Jewish value of “Hiddur Mitzvah – making commandments beautiful.” The Torah tells us: “This is my God and I will glorify Him.” (Exodus 15:2) How have the rabbis interpreted this phrase?

Adorn yourself before God in commandments: make a beautiful sukkah in God’s honor, a beautiful lulav, a beautiful shofar, beautiful fringes, and a beautiful Torah scroll, and write it for God with fine ink, a fine reed, and a skilled penman, and wrap it with beautiful silks.

Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 133b

Nowhere is this “beautification” more evident than on Shabbat. One area of fantastic beautification and embellishment is the Kiddish Cup. Every Shabbat, there is a special blessing over wine, the Kiddush – connecting the joy of drinking wine to the joy of the Sabbath. A wine cup could be any wine cup – not fancy. A paper cup even is perfectly acceptable. But… if we are glorifying the commandment of saying a blessing over Shabbat wine, why not have a beautiful one?

Beautiful Israeli Kiddush cups are often gifts of the congregation for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah child. In the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries, affluent European Jews would often commission famous non-Jewish silversmiths to create their special Kiddush cups. There are even Paul Revere Kiddish cups made by one of our US Founding Fathers (he was, after all, a silversmith).

Shabbat Shalom

Are there particular Shabbat foods that are traditional in your family? Let us know!

Kiddush Cup created by the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem c. 1910 & Modern Israeli Kiddush Cup by Emanuel