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A very talented young relative of mine is a fine artist. I mean that she is really good. Every family has at least one talented member in its midst and she is ours. She recently painted a magnificent painting and it was sold for a goodly amount of money to a very fine person and art connoisseur. The only rub in the deal was that the painting was unframed and the purchaser asked for it to be framed, at his expense, but at our family's effort and taste. I have long known that the greatest painting can be lessened by being put into the wrong frame and that a mediocre painting can be greatly enhanced by being placed in a proper frame. I hope that the frame that was chosen will satisfy the customer. I think that it helps the painting and brings forth the proper colors, shades and nuances. Unframed potential masterpieces litter the storerooms of museums worldwide. For the most part, they will never see the light of day on museum walls. Thus the experience of having to frame this beautiful painting drove home a lesson to me about Jewish life that is essential for a meaningful understanding of Judaism. And that is that even the most beautiful idea, faith and way of life has to have a proper frame in order for it to be maximally effective.

The way of life of Judaism is governed by rules and demands that reach into every facet of daily existence. There are always blessings to be recited, speech to be controlled and monitored, and unlimited acts of kindness and goodness to be performed. There is a regimen of prayer and synagogue attendance, the requirement to set aside time for Torah study and spiritual inspection and meditation and the pressure to always make family and children one's first and main priority. All of these details create the frame that encompasses the wondrous painting that is Judaism. Over the centuries it has been proven time and again that the painting without the frame will not be fully appreciated and eventually may not even survive. The rabbis of the Talmud phrased it: "The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to cleanse and give merit to Israel. He therefore gave them a great number of commandments and an infinite Torah, for as it is written, "The Lord desires that His righteousness be apparent, therefore He made the Torah great and magnificent.'" The ritual of Judaism, the multiplicity of its commandments, the penetration of Torah into every seemingly physical aspect of human life, form the frame for the great picture of human life that Judaism offers and represents. That is why a secular Judaism, no matter how brilliant and intellectual it may appear at the outset, has never been able to stand the test of time and societal and generational vicissitudes. It is a picture without a frame and lacks in true depth and an eternal perspective.

A frame is necessary in order to hold within it all of the blessings of life. That is why they give out bags at the checkout counters of retail stores and supermarkets. The Mishna teaches us that "The Lord found no better container or frame to hold the blessings of life than peace." The Mishna certainly implies that one must have a bag to carry home one's blessings and talents. That container is peace - certainly being at peace with one's self. Peace at home and in the family, peace in one's community and commercial endeavors and peace among nations - that type of peace is the framework for positive human existence and accomplishment. The Torah teaches us "all of its ways are ways of pleasantness." The painting of our lives itself is certainly very important. But the frame into which we will place that painting is no less important. The structure of Judaism, with its inherent restrictions and overriding vision of human holiness and goal of service to God and man, provides for each of us the frame into which to insert our life's painting. Torah education and knowledge, awareness of the past and of Jewish tradition, living a Jewish, family-centered life, can help us frame the picture of our life correctly and with eternal materials.

Shabat Shalom.
Rabbi Berel Wein

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