Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Decorators of the Soul

To get myself in the proper yuntiff state of mind, I've been hearkening to various shiurim; one, by Rabbi Stauber, was addressing the difficulties some have with the concept of "hiddur mitzvah."
I was puzzled. Why should anyone feel pompous by practicing hiddur mitzvah? Then I realized: I'm Hungarian. Our whole lives are hiddur.

As my social studies teacher in 6th grade (a frum woman of Polish heritage) taught my class, an example of a stereotype is, for instance, that Hungarians have chandeliers in their bathrooms.
Darn tootin'. We matter-of-factly beautify the mundane. How much more so the sacred? 

I was once listening to an Esther Wein shiur, and she brings an Arizal: Hashem created the whole world, and within every culture and nation there is an aspect that Jews can learn to better serve Hashem. 

As the granddaughter of Rabbi Schwab, she mentioned the German meticulousness, which can be applied in how mitzvos are kept—in careful detail. 

Well, Hungarians decorate. 

Setting the table for Shabbos, for instance. My father's cousin came for a visit, and he and Ma had a passionate discussion on the art of tablecloths. (His wife, while a fellow Magyar, was not concerned with such matters.) He eagerly soaked up Ma's prowess of ideal weight and measurements. 

While I do share a house with the best cook I have ever come across (I have had much exposure to other chefs, and she has yet to be outclassed), the success of a Shabbos meal, is, oddly, less in the food, more in the presentation.

As Ma decrees, three factors: 

1)   Beautiful dishes.
2)  Beautiful flowers.
3)  Gracious hostess.
Couldn't resist.
There's a reason why I'm currently sitting on a trousseaux of Lenox, snatched up piece by discounted piece in Homegoods. Dishes are a long-term investment, and if one buys a reliable brand that doesn't chip they will be around—looking pretty—for years to come. (Cutting back on a few food items from takeout or the deli section will cover the cost quite quickly.)
As for flowers, they don't have to be expensive to be lovely. Carnations, for instance, aren't pricey and can last as long as two weeks. But then, it is also imperative to own a lovely glass vase to put them into.
Ta's esrog this year? The fairest of them all.    

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