Beautifying Mitzvos by Michael Winner/9/16/2022 Several times a week I pass an older man relaxing outside of his building after maariv. He will never accept an "erev tov" (good evening), since he's insistent of his own greeting "erev metzuyon" (an EXCELLLENT evening).The other night he stopped me and said, "You know, you Ashkanazim really owe us Sfardim a lot. You guys start waking up early for Slichos only a week or so before Rosh Hashanah. We figured that since you have so many sins on you, we need to start waking up for Slichos an entire month before Rosh Hashanah, just to pray for our Ashkanazi brothers!"I've never heard that one before, and I must admit, I didn't have a good comeback."And you will take from the first of your fruits" (Devarim 26:2).Every year, after working hard taking care of the fields, growing their fruits, and davening that Hashem should send rain, the farmers would have a special mitzvah of Bikkurim, where they would take the first (and best) of their fruit, and with song and rejoicing, they would go to the Beis HaMikdash to offer it as an offering.As one could imagine, the fruits were brought in decorative vessels, and the fruits themselves were of the highest quality, full of colour and flavour. The best of the best. A lot of hard work was invested into bringing those fruits to life, but in the end, the quality and quantity made it worthwhile.With this mitzvah, not only do we see the importance of recognizing the beautiful gifts that Hashem gives us, but also the importance of us beautifying the gifts that Hashem gives us. The Rambam himself writes (Hilchos Issurei Mizbeiach 7: 11), that any opportunity we have to use the good that Hashem gives us, we should use the best we have. When we build a shul, build it nicely. When we are hungry, eat good food, when we make kiddush, use a nice cup to do so ....My son told me that the Rosh Yeshiva auctioned off the merit of cleaning the beis medresh where all the boys learn. Whoever was willing to learn the most pages of Gemara (extra), would win the merit. Now, of course you would think that this is a shtick that he's doing to get some free work, but I see how the money of the yeshiva is being used, and I can honestly say, he does not skimp when it comes down to taking care of them. He believes it and he wanted kids to learn this lesson as well.Beautifying any mitzvah, in and of itself, is a mitzvah. So when we need to do a mitzvah, we try to do it in the best way possible. When we need to "buy" mitzvos, such as a kiddish cup, lulav & esrog, etc., we put in a little extra to make sure that it's nice. When I was thinking about buying a certain set of books, my Rosh Yeshiva told me to spend the extra money buying the nicest version, so it will be more pleasing to learn from.While we cannot actually bring Bikkurim today, we can still learn an important lesson from it.Have a wonderful Shabbos!