Mayim Shamayim Nitzavim Vayelech
“For this mitzvah that I am commanding you today is not hidden from you or remote. It is not in the heavens…and not across the ocean…For it is exceedingly close to you, in your mouth and your heart to do it” (Devarim 30:11-14).
What is this mitzvah that is so close to us?
Most commentaries attribute this poetic description to the mitzvah of teshuva, repentance, which appears in the previous verse, “When you return to Hashem your G-d with all your heart and all your soul.” The stages of repentance require one to atone for an improper action by verbally confessing to the sin with his mouth; reflecting upon the action and asking himself profound inner questions; accepting in his heart never to repeat the same error; and practically refraining from the same sin in the future. All these are encompassed in the summary statement of “In your mouth and your heart to do it.”
The High Holy Days, ten awesome days of repentance, will soon be upon us, and I find myself pondering why of the 613 mitzvot in the Torah, is only the mitzvah of teshuva given this preface? Why is it portrayed as not in the heavens or across the ocean?
On a personal level, I find it immensely challenging to do teshuva. Sincere teshuva requires tremendous integrity, humility and willpower to confront the challenge of changing oneself and, moreover, sticking to my resolve. And despite it all, there are still areas in life where I find myself stumbling time and again…
With these words, the Torah reveals that the strength and power required for teshuva are not beyond me, not as far as I imagine. I need not travel great distances to collect them, for they are entrenched deep inside of me, readily available to me, a priceless treasure secreted in the innermost chambers of my soul, and I must merely dig and search to find them.
What’s in Prague?
I’m reminded of an old Chassidic tale of a chassid named Reb Eisik, a pauper who lived in the poorest section of Cracow. One night, the chassid dreamed that if he would travel to Prague, he would discover a treasure buried beneath one of the main city bridges. The dream repeated itself night after night, until Reb Eisik finally determined to travel to distant Prague and search for the treasure. He journeyed many days and nights until finally reaching his destination. Recognizing the bridge from his dream, the pauper immediately began to dig beneath it until he was suddenly accosted by a soldier who furiously demanded that he explain his actions. Reb Eisik repeated his dream to the soldier who laughed uproariously and replied, “And I once dreamed of a treasure buried beneath the stove of a Jewish pauper in Cracow by the name of Eisik, but do you think I’d travel all the way to Cracow to find it? Be gone, Jew!” Hearing this, Eisik immediately retraced his steps to Cracow where he pulled up his kitchen floorboards and, indeed, revealed a treasure buried in his own home!
Rabbi Nachman’s treasure chest…and mine!
Rabbi Nachman of Breslev explains that this story reveals that deep within each and every Jew lies a treasure chest containing sparkling diamonds and jewels of infinite worth. The treasures in his soul are his alone, priceless spiritual gems pleading to be unearthed, polished and their potential realized on a daily basis.
Says Rabbi Nachman, “Return to your treasures, and use them.” Seek them in the deepest fathoms of your heart, cleanse them of the layers of dirt and mud in which they have been buried, and let their spiritual radiance shine as you use them!
The concept within the concept
This inner treasure awakens inside me new, stirring thoughts of concepts.
Every design project begins with a concept, an idea, a brainstorm, an image, even a dream that serves as the foundation of the project and also my guiding light throughout the entire process. It is the spiritual perspective and inner motor stimulating the project.Ultimately, the concept is translated into a language of physical design and substance, of color and texture, of shape and matter. When I initiate any design, I refer not only to the client’s needs or the demands of the space and area, but primarily to the underlying concept which allows me to create a plan that is far more unique than a design that lacks a core concept.
Inspiration board for a seaside apartment, using concept of Sea, Sand & Sky.
Some clients are focused on functionality and practicality. As the designer, I introduce them to the importance of having a concept at the root of every plan and process, a spiritual perspective that automatically allows the functionality to blossom on its own.
Identifying the unique concept requires a great deal of forethought and searching together with the client. Together, we reveal the client’s needs, personality, preferences, roles, hobbies and dreams, along with technical aspects and limitations including space, architectural design, location, outside scenery, and what these all individually and collectively convey.
For example, the inspiration for a planned vacation apartment in Netanya was the endless array of blue visible from the window—the sky, the sand, the seashells, and infinite heavens stretched across like a canopy. Together, these converged in an aura of sea and sky, a form of heaven meeting earth.
From a working perspective, after developing a concept and building an inspiration board (see sample above), I continue searching for more images and pictures to match the atmosphere of a specific space, utilizing these to glean my colors, shades and hues. You can see examples in the following photos which I used to create the atmosphere of a living room with the help of color swatches from a paint store.
Shades from a Tambor color sampler inspired by living room photos from the Sarah Richardson collection.
Shades from a Tambor color sampler inspired by dinette photos from the Maisons Du Monde collection.
Concepts, despite or perhaps because of their spiritual element, are not remote from us. They are not in the heavens, nor are they across the ocean. They are buried in the heart of every client, in the soul of every designer; and the joint effort to discover and reveal it serves as the greatest impetus to creativity and creation.
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