Serve God with Beauty

Yael Eckstein  |  January 13, 2022

dinner table with Shabbat dinner including challah and candles

He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him. –
Exodus 15:2b

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Beshalach, which means “when he sent them away,” from Exodus 13:17–17:16.

There are many ways that we worship God and honor Him. Of course, when we pray to God, we praise Him as we do so. We also honor God by doing His work here on earth, by contributing to Godly causes and engaging in Tikkun Olam, “fixing the world,” to build His kingdom. For me personally, I am reminded daily that all the work of The Fellowship serves God in this way.

And according to Jewish teaching, our study of His word is also a form of worship. Which makes sense, when you think about it. Carefully reading God’s word, mining them for every lesson and appreciating their deep beauty and wisdom, shows God just how much we love Him and want to be closer to Him.

But there is another way of honoring God that I want to share with you. Every Friday night, when I set the Shabbat table in my home, I make sure that everything is beautiful, from the dishes to the tablecloth, to the candlesticks that I use to light the Shabbat candles. Fresh flowers adorn the table, and the silver cup that my husband uses to bless the Shabbat wine is always shining and beautiful.

The same is true of our celebration of the festivals. In every observance of the biblical law, Jewish tradition teaches us to do God’s will in the most beautiful way possible. That is why our Torah scrolls in the synagogue are always adorned with beautifully embroidered coverings and silver crowns and breastplates. We honor God with beauty.

Serve God with Beauty

We learn of the importance of honoring God with beauty from a verse in this week’s Torah portion, from the song that the children of Israel sang while crossing the Red Sea, “He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him”(Exodus 15:2).

The Hebrew word for “praise” here is anveihu, a very rarely used word in the Bible. It’s not the normal word for “praise.” The root of this word is naveh, which means “beauty” or “beautiful home.” A more exact translation of this verse would be, “He is my God, and I will make Him beautiful.”

Praising God, honoring Him, and showing Him how much we love Him are what we are doing when we serve God with beauty.

Your Turn:

Think of a way to serve God with beauty, through art, music, or objects that you use in celebrating Him.