Beauty in Holiness הדור מצוה
Hidur mitzvah, or the beautification of objects pertaining to Jewish religious observance, has a long and varied tradition harking back to the Bible. The Book of Exodus recounts that the artisan Bezalel ben Hur fashioned the Ark of the Covenant and its implements with lavish ornamentation and beauty. The First Book of Kings details the sumptuous architecture and grandeur of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. And, archaeological finds across the ancient world have uncovered the remains of a rich and ongoing tradition of Jewish ceremonial art from later times. Today, as in the Middle Ages, not only objects of ritual use are decorated and embellished but also the scrolls and texts accompanying specific religious occasions and holidays. Chief amongst these are the Passover Haggadah, the Purim Megillah (or scroll), and the Jewish marriage contract, known as the Ketubbah—each with its own unique traditions of iconology. From Gothic monsters and Renaissance cherubs to Islamic arabesques and post-Modernist cubes, Jewish ceremonial and decorated text reflect a constant tension between content and form and between tradition and innovation in the ongoing desire to combine beauty with holiness.
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