Should we use fancy Judaica items? 

Should we use fancy Judaica items? 

People often ask me questions. This is one of them:

“I just spent a Shabbat in Monsey with my religious cousin. I’ve noticed how many silver Judaica items they own: a fancy Kiddush cup, a marvelous candelabra for the Shabbat candles, and even a fancy silver matchbox holder! It’s not that they can’t afford it, but I wonder whether Judaica items should be more modest.”

This was my answer:

Funny you should ask! Just yesterday, I had similar thoughts — about something completely different: the Stanley Cup.

Please don’t laugh at me. I promise I haven’t lived under a rock for the past few months, but until recently, I knew only about the Stanley Cup as the NHL trophy. But then, I discovered that the Stanley cup is also the name of a traveling mug. A craze for that mug taking over the country.

At first, I thought to myself:

Are people actually buying a Stanley, a drinking mug, for $45? It’s ridiculous! There are many decent options for $15 or even $10. Is the Stanley made out of gold or something?

I know the answer. People are buying the Stanley because it’s trendy. They don’t care what material it’s made of. They didn’t research how durable it is. Having a Stanley is simply something that is very “it” right now, and people love feeling “it.”

I was about to wear my rabbi hat and start sermonizing about why following trends is not a good idea, blah blah blah…

But then another thought came to mind.

Why do we have these strong inclinations to follow trends? Why do we feel the urge to be “it”? It’s something G-d embedded within us. It’s part of G-d’s design of our personality. So instead of fighting it, how about we find ways to hack it for holy purposes?

When I meet someone who spent $45 on a Stanley, I can try to teach him why it was a waste of money, or instead, I can wish him to enjoy his purchase but more importantly, try to find a way to make learning Torah fashionable, doing mitzvot trendy, and being a good person feeling like “it.”

Ultimately, G-d gave us these tendencies for good and holy purposes and as a tool to propel the world toward a better place. When we effectively tap into these character traits, we can energize many people to do more mitzvot.

Now, to your visit with your cousin in Monsey.

In the same way, we like to follow trends, we also — all of us — have a strong appreciation for beautiful things. It’s just something G-d has ingrained in us. Being around beauty makes us feel better.

And we have a choice of what to do with it. We can use it for worldly things. We can ensure our house, car, and clothing look beautiful. Or we can use the beauty to serve G-d and make fulfilling his mitzvot much more exciting.

Every Friday, your cousin and her children enthusiastically glance at the beautiful silver matchbox holder. It makes the mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat candles so much more exciting. They know their parents spent a lot of money on this because the mitzvah and the connection with G-d are precious to them. I am sure this is something they will appreciate for many years to come.

So let’s all make our mitzvot more beautiful, and yes, let’s use some fancy silver and gold for our mitzvot. It’s exactly what they have been created for!

Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack and an editorial member of He looks forward to your comments and thoughts at

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