"Do you like painting?" asked Mr. Cohen, the new arts and crafts teacher. "Perhaps you are good at making models, or needlework, carpentry or metalwork?"

Rebecca yawned. She loved biology, learning about the cell structures and life-cycles of plants, animals and human beings.  True, that did involve quite a bit of careful drawing of diagrams.

Rebecca liked math as well. There too, you got to draw some interesting shapes in geometry and also in graph work. But she just did not feel at all interested in all this kid's stuff. 

Painting!  Her older sister Louise loved painting and drooled over squiggly shapes or realistic pictures which you could easily improve on with a digital camera. But not for me!

That is what Rebecca was thinking while Mr. Cohen's voice provided a pleasant blurry background to her musings. Then she slowly began to listen to what he was saying:

"In Torah life, every skill can be used to serve Hashem. The Sedra tells us about Betzalel, the great artist and craftsman who was in charge of building the beautiful Sanctuary. Through his work, which included organizing many other people who had artistic skills, the wonderful Sanctuary was created."

Interesting, thought Rebecca. Still, this wasn't what Louise was so keen on.

"Now, in Jewish daily life we can also use artistic skills. Our home is like a little Sanctuary. There can be beautiful things in the home, making it welcoming and attractive. There are specifically spiritual things like…"

He paused for breath. One of the girls, Andrea, put up her hand. "Like the Mezuzah?" she asked.

Andrea always gets A+, thought Rebecca, gloomily.

"Yes, quite right," Mr. Cohen responded warmly, "like the Mezuzah on the door, which gives a special quality to the room. The parchment scroll is written carefully by a scribe with a quill, writing on parchment. The Mezuzah case can be very simple, or it might be made of beautiful olivewood or silver."

"What about paintings on the wall?" asked Stella. She was a very artistic girl whose home was full of prints of interesting paintings with Jewish themes.

"Certainly, paintings can help to make the warm atmosphere of a Jewish home," said Mr. Cohen. "Of course," he added, "it depends what they are. A painting can be something which strengthens a person's awareness of holiness. The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged quite a number of artists round the world to express their Jewish and spiritual feelings through paintings."

Well, that is interesting, thought Rebecca. I must tell my sister Louise...