by Danya Shapiro
I started thinking about Hiddur Mitzvah, the Mitzvah of bringing beauty to a Mitzvah, as I was getting ready with my kids to celebrate Father’s Day. Celebrating Father’s Day we were observing the Mitzvah of Kavod et Av v Em, honoring one’s parents, it was a great opportunity for me to discuss the Mitzvah with my kids.
At school earlier in the month my four year old daughter Ruthie had made gifts for her dad which she hid in the house so she could surprise him on Father’s Day. In addition to the gifts she had made we decided to do something more that would also include her little brother Ziv, 20 months old. Our idea was to make cookies and, based on Ruthie’s ideas of what this should look like, she came up with four different cookie flavors to make: chocolate chip, peanut butter M&M, oatmeal raisin and oatmeal chocolate chip. The cookie baking process started with a trip to the grocery store with the kids’ own shopping cart to buy a few things we needed. Because the kids were the ones taking turns pushing the cart we got many comments about how cute we were. Ruth would then engage every person who commented on what we were doing and what the three things on our shopping list were. Once we had collected all the ingredients we went to work on this big cookie task. Both kids got to scoop, measure and mix and, yes, the kitchen and Ziv were a bit messy by the time the whole process was finished.
While the cookies were baking the kids went into the other room to play. As I was taking out one of the trays, the cookies fell everywhere. We did the best we could to clean them up and save what we could. Ruth was concerned because they were all messed up but we discussed the fact that they probably would taste just as good and when they cooled we taste tested them just to be sure. They did, in fact, taste good even if they didn’t look great.
The whole cookie making from shopping to baking got me thinking about what exactly it means to bring beauty to a mitzvah. Hiddur Mitzvah is often thought of as beautifying a ritual object, such as setting a lovely Shabbat table or using a special Seder plate rather than just any old plate as your Seder plate. Although I believe these are great ways to preform Hiddur Mitzvah, I believe that there is also another element to Hiddur Mitzvah, beautifying a mitzvah through the process and not being so concerned about the product. The cookies that my kids made not the most esthetically beautiful especially with the tray that I dropped but they were some of the most beautiful cookies because they went through the process from buying ingredients, making cookies all the way to baking putting their love into every step. I have two kids who love their daddy very much and preformed the mitzvah of Kavod et ha Av and absolutely beatified the mitzvah through the process.
Sometimes as the adults in our kids’ lives we get more worried about the product vs the process but it is important to remember that the process is a beautiful thing. Now not everyone might be willing to have their kids take over the kitchen as I did but there are ways to make the process stand on its own such as letting the kids set the Shabbat table and letting the spoons, forks and knives end up where ever they do or the plates not match up to the chairs around the table. Beauty can take different forms and it is important for us to remember that Hiddur Mitzvah can be in all those forms.
You may know educator, artist and mom Danya Shapiro from jkidphilly, but she also creates beautiful original chuppot~check them out!