As I entered the profound month of Elul I started to hear much discussion and debate about lipstick. I knew that there must be an Elul message in there somewhere! I began to think about a topic I really don't think about much. Make-up. Of course, everything is found in the Torah so I scoured my encyclopedic mind (okay, I used a CD ROM) for accessorized swine in the Torah.

And wouldn't you know it—King Solomon in his book of Proverbs already makes mention of lipstick on a swine. You don't believe me? Okay, it isn't lipstick, it's another facial accessory, a golden nose ring. "A golden nose ring on the snout of a swine."

But his metaphor goes even further than our lipstick imagery. Not only does it not change the pig, it is in extreme poor taste. So, cosmetics lesson #1: an accessory that does not fit is worse than worthless. It detracts from the image.

Let's take a deeper look at make-up (a bit of an oxymoron there) and other accessories in order to reach the very profound cosmetics lesson #2.

The purpose of make-up is not to conceal—a mask or a paper bag would do a much better job. Rather, it is meant to enhance what is already there.

Certain parts may need to be masked, but it is all towards the larger goal of enhancement. Cosmetics lesson #2: Make-up is designed to showcase the face, and bring out the true inner beauty.

Make-up to enhance who we are is in good taste. Make-up to hide who we are, well, we call them clowns.

So, what does this have to do with Elul? It is a month of change and transformation. So, we need to know the fundamentals of make-up and accessories and how to apply them. Because, indeed, Judaism is chock-full of holy adornments. We call them mitzvot.

A person could look at a mitzvah and say, "It seems so superficial. I take a candle and light it at a particular time. Or, I take a piece of parchment and affix it to the doorposts of my house. But what about my genuine self, the inner me? I can only reach that through meditation and other non-worldly endeavors."

And so we go to cosmetics lesson #2. All of the superficial aspects of Judaism are very significant. They may seem only skin deep, but just like make-up, when applied properly they bring out the true inner beauty. If one decides to give charity, attend synagogue or light Shabbat Candles these are deeds performed externally, but they evince the pure, brilliant light of the neshamah (soul). The mitzvah showcases our neshamah to the outer world, and first and foremost to our own self.

Without the awareness of our neshamah, the adornment may seem to be superfluous or worse. But hidden inside the person is a unique soul, just waiting to shine forth. The mitzvah is regulated with the proper quantity and method of application to enhance who we really are.

This transformation may not be readily perceptible to all. But if we look with the lens of our soul we can see it.

Once during Chanukah, a note requesting a blessing was brought to the Chozeh ("The Seer") of Lublin from a certain individual who was known for his evil behavior. The Seer immediately gave a warm blessing.

A short while later, the man, pleased with the blessing he had received, submitted a second note, hoping to receive another blessing. This time, however, the Seer immediately dropped it to the floor. He wouldn't touch it, as though it were something poisonous.

When his puzzled assistant asked why the Seer had reacted so differently to the two notes, the Seer answered that when he read the first note, the individual had at that very moment been lighting his Chanukah menorah. Because he was engaged in a mitzvah, his soul was shining radiantly, and on the basis of this merit, he was worthy of a blessing. But at the time of the second note...

When we look deeper than our own physical perception, beyond the swine, we come to appreciate each and every holy application. And we realize that this seeming skin-deep activity reaches to the core of our self-identity and is the path to self transformation.