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Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel Pekudei 5777

Ein Ayah: Inclination Toward Beautification Positive and Negative

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 4:9)

Gemara: Ameimar, Mar Zutra and Rav Ashi were sitting together (on Shabbat). They brought in front of them barda (a mixture of herbs for washing themselves). Ameimar and Rav Ashi washed, but Mar Zutra did not. They said to Mar Zutra: Do you not accept what Rav Sheshet said, that barda is permitted? Rav Mordechai said to them: Do not learn from Mar Zutra in this matter, for he does not permit such washing even during the week. Indeed, Mar Zutra holds like the Tanna who permitted to remove dirt or scabs from one’s body only if he is uncomfortable but not to beautify himself. (Rashi – such female-like beautification is forbidden for men). Ameimar and Rav Ashi followed the Tanna who allowed a man to wash his face, hands, and feet every day in honor of his Creator, as the pasuk states, “All that Hashem made is for Him” (Mishlei 16:4).

 

Ein Ayah: There are two sides to the inclination to beauty – a positive and a negative one. On the one hand, it uplifts the soul and has a good and honorable impact on the eyes that see it. On the other hand, a person could become lost in it, thereby losing his basic reason for his success. The basis of a person’s internal success is his realization that his happiness is always to be found within himself, his heart and soul. He should not seek it from others.

The inclination toward beauty enslaves a person to others, as most aesthetic things depend on the eye of the beholder.  This distances a person from the way of truth and true fear of Heaven, which is based on the lofty idea of “the candle of Hashem is the soul of man who searches the inner chambers” (Mishlei 20:27). The highest goodness derives from one’s internal integrity, based on his deep desire for goodness, justice and integrity, not by finding favor in the eyes of others.

Therefore, both inclinations must find things to strengthen them. Those who seek beauty, to find favor in the eyes of others, benefit not only from the uplifting nature of the beauty. It also develops and enhances society, as it makes people interdependent one on another regarding matters they have agreed upon.

However, there are unique individuals whose focus is on their own self-improvement, piety, and sanctity. Only indirectly will great goodness come from these holy people to society in general. They bring great benefit to the broad society. These people do not influence others by their actions, but by their essence, as opposed to those who influence by their actions.

It is more fitting for those hidden people, whose goodness resonates when they are inwardly focused, to despise beauty and splendor, nullifying any search for finding favor in the eyes of their surroundings. This inclination toward absolute truth will bring forth an abundance of good, peace and inner tranquility, as well as holiness of the heart and a depth of the soul.

There are others whose purpose is to influence directly through actions and speech. Those, who impact the world directly, are by nature connected to this world. Bringing goodness and honor through beauty is part of their holy service. They need to wash their faces, hands and feet in honor of their Creator, for this is the honor of Hashem. This good influence of holy people, righteous and wise Jews, has a great impact on others. This will increase the attribute of shame, as everyone will find themselves enslaved to a society that does right and good. This benefit outweighs the detriment of those who try to use external beauty to blind the other’s eye, and lose all sense of their inner self, which is given to each individual person.

Through these two inclinations together, the good and right things will emerge. “These and these are the words of the living G-d.”

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