Hiddur Mitzvah…Glory, glory, Hallelujah!

Debi Mishael

Debi MishaelI remember a saying my father would use as a mantra, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.” What motivates a student to do their best work? What motivates one student to do their best when others are just trying to do the minimum required?

They might be motivated to receive a good grade. They might really like the task in front of them. They might want to please their parents or teacher. If they are mature enough, they might even feel their work is a reflection of themselves and it matters that they put forth their best efforts.

The principle of Hiddur Mitzvah הידור מצוה is our motivation to enhance and adorn the mitzvot. I’ve put a Jewish twist on the lesson from my father by saying, “Any mitzvah worth doing is worth doing beautifully.”

artwork for mishael 1Does God grade us on the quality of our mitzvah fulfillment? What is really achieved by our extra efforts? In Exodus 15:2 we read זה אלו ואנבהו. The traditional translation is “This is my G-d and I will glorify God.” and the sages interpret this verse to mean that we have the opportunity to bring glory to God by doing the mitzvot the best we can. We enhance our relationship to G-d by enhancing the beauty of our deeds.

It has always been important to me to make sure my classroom walls “look” beautiful and appealing to my students. I want them to know that I have taken the time to creative a visually stimulating environment to enhance their learning. It’s an implicit message to my students. The learning setting makes a difference. I am glorifying or learning experience by making it beautiful.

I use cloth napkins on my Shabbat dinner table because they feel more substantial and elegant than a thin paper napkin. I explore different ways to fold the napkins so their placement on the table adds another decorative element to my dining room. When my family sits down to eat together on a Monday night, they’re lucky if I remember to put paper towels on the table. I don’t take the time on a Monday to fold cloth into the shape of a water lily. Monday meals are not Shabbat dinners and I don’t feel the need to glorify them!

You can drink kiddush wine from a paper Dixie cup and fulfill the mitzvah. When you use an engraved silver goblet, an etched wine glass, a hand-made ceramic cup or a painted challis you have elevated the action of blessing the wine. Hiddur Mitzvah הידור מצוה tells us that it is not just about WHAT you are doing but it’s HOW you are doing it that matters.

It is my goal in this blog to provide ideas and inspiration bringing the lessons of Hiddur Mitzvah הידור מצוה to everything we do.