Vanity table, vanity bench, makeup vanity…

I just Googled these items and found that they are a normative part of home furnishings.

Interesting. The dictionary defines vanity as "shallow, excessive attention to beauty." So, we now have ostentation and self-admiration enshrined in the home with standardized accoutrements.

It's an equation that comes straight from your local home-furnishings outlet. Beauty-related furniture=vanity.

Living in a Hollywood culture, I can understand the attraction of the vanity label. We instinctively associate the pursuit of beauty with the pursuit of movie star glamour. So we denigrate it as vanity.

But is that what beauty is? Could there conceivably be a place for beauty in a refined, holy life? Of course there is.

It's all in the attitude. The operative question is: Why do we want beauty?

Is beauty an end in itself, or is it a helpful aid to a meaningful end?

Proverbs tells us that "Grace is false and beauty is vain," but "respect for the Divine… should be praised."

Beauty is false and vain when it is detached from a meaningful context, but if beauty helps us in the quest for meaning, that's great.

Does one want to turn heads on the street (with a beautiful image) or impress friends (with a beautiful home)? That's beauty with no substantive purpose.

Or does "looking good" help a speaker's meaningful message be heard, and one's beautiful Shabbat table help create a serene and dignified ambience? That is beauty which supports a real purpose.

Both want beauty, but they're worlds apart.

The Talmud teaches: "Which is the right path for a person to choose? That which is beautiful to himself and beautiful to others."

Beauty brings pleasant feelings to the mind. I should be doing good things, and good things should create a pleasant feeling within me. If my positive actions are done with proper regard for those around me, than others should also feel pleasant vibes.

So my conduct should be beautiful. Now if I can give it a physically beautiful setting, that setting will be beauty with a purpose. How beautiful.