Cheedur Mitzvah



Cheedur Mitzvah

A few weeks ago, I taught a workshop where we made Shabbat items (candlesticks, kiddush cup, bread plate) Before I gave my demo, the rabbi there explained the concept of  “cheedur mitzvah” as:  “the beautification of a mitzvah or commandment”. He spoke about how each of us can choose just how to beautify these mitzvahs; for example keeping the sabbath; what do you use to put your candles and wine and bread in? What things do you do, meditate on, eat that you, personally find beautiful?


 I was quite taken with the idea.

This is how i want to live my life. I want to surround myself with beauty; I want to create beautiful things for others so they may do the same, I want to elevate our daily acts  – the things we must do- by using beautiful things to carry out those tasks.

If you have a cup of coffee, why should it be in a machine-made, lifeless form mug with someone else’s advertising on it? (I’m thinking of a John Deer mug in case you are wondering)   

If you wash your dishes, I want the undersides to have beauty and detail to delight you when you discover it; if you come home with a grocery bag of fruit I want you to have a lovely bowl to set that fruit in and celebrate the bounty and freshness of what you will eat.

That’s why I’m a functional potter.  I want to elevate the everyday, the mundane, the unnoticed and the routine. I don’t want to be a sculptor. Where’s the challenge in that?  More important; where’s the interaction? My pieces are meant to be an intimate part of daily life. To have meaning for the owner.

Cheedur Mitzvah reminds me of the daily prayer the Navajo say:

Navajo prayer

Beauty before me I walk

Beauty behind me I walk

Beauty above me I walk

Beauty below me I walk

Beauty all around me

I walk In beauty all is made whole

In beauty all is restored



and I really love the longer version- it is, truly what I wish for myself. How wonderful to remind yourself of this every day:


Today I will walk out, today everything evil will leave me, 

I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body. 

I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, 

nothing will hinder me. 

I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me. 

I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me. 

I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful. 


In beauty all day long may I walk. 

Through the returning seasons, may I walk. 

On the trail marked with pollen may I walk. 

With dew about my feet, may I walk. 


With beauty before me may I walk. 

With beauty behind me may I walk. 

With beauty below me may I walk. 

With beauty above me may I walk. 

With beauty all around me may I walk. 


In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, 

lively, may I walk. 

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, 

living again, may I walk. 

My words will be beautiful. 


and let’s not forget how beautiful the pottery is that comes from the closely related Pueblo  and Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) cultures among others from that part of the country.