Into The Looking Glass, Reflections from the High Holy Days … and How to Hang a Mirror

October 27, 2011

Yes, The Handy Hazzan has been away for a while.  By the end of July I was already focused on developing the choir for The New Shul of the Conejo, where I was most fortunate to serve as Hazzan for the High Holy Days alongside Rabbi Gershon Weissman and my friend and colleague, Rabbi Michael Barclay. Gathering music suitable for a quartet of congregational members who were most talented, dedicated and eager to do the great job that they did in fact do…. was challenging, educational and rewarding.  Special thanks to Shannon, Diane, Barry and Darrell…. and our wonderful accompanist, Yafei Lin.

Shortly before beginning preparations for the holidays, I decided it was about time Roxy got her own mirror in her room.  (Already I was reflecting on the year that was about to come to an end and I didn’t realize it.) I uncovered an old, truly antique beveled glass mirror I’d pulled out of my first house in Los Angeles up on Kirkwood Drive; it was sitting around reflecting and collecting dust.  The frame was a mess… painted some drab taupe color, the paint long since dirty and cracked.  I decided this would be our next Handy Hazzan project, and we honestly finished the video below in late July.  Why, I have asked myself … why have I waited so long to write about restoring and hanging a mirror?  In addition to my busy schedule, something else was going on.  I couldn’t decide whether to have the mirror re-silvered – not something I wish to do myself … or keep it the way it was.  You know when a mirror needs to be re-silvered.  Little black dots start to show up in the reflection, and/or other cracks or imperfections begin to form.

I picked up the mirror and looked into it for a long moment.  My image was dirtied, even distorted by the imperfections of the mirror.  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were coming.  I knew I had to deal with my many imperfections and I just wasn’t ready to do it.  And my daughter Roxy so young and innocent…no way would I talk myself into thinking that it was okay for her to see her reflection in any but a pure way just because of the “cool antique look.” NO!  This wasn’t good enough for my Roxy, who had just restored/repainted the frame all by herself! (That’s the main subject of our video.)  So as the High Holy Days loomed closer and closer and I went over the liturgy again and again… I simply let the mirror lie on the living room chair… distorted mirror reflection and beautiful hand-painted frame… separated from one another.  I was floating then climbing in Elul, preparing myself to lead the congregants of The New Shul in musical prayer including all the Avinu Malkenus and Al Chets.
This may seem a tad stale by now…. and please follow me….The joy of the High Holy days is that we are finally cleansed as the gates of N’eila come to a close and we are not only written but sealed in the Book of Life, we pray, for another year.  All this cleansing and praying may have its uplifting payoff, and it is also exhausting.  Less than a week later we thanked G-d for Sukkot, Z’man Simchatenu, the only holiday where we are commanded to be happy.  This is but one example of the balance and order God gives us in our calendar.  I see the entire, eight-day holiday of Sukkot as a symbolic, extended Shabbat for all of the work we have done on ourselves during the Yamin Noraim.

Once Simchat Torah was finished, I was renewed though exhausted, and anxious to get back to our mirror project.  I stayed with my choice to have Roxy’s mirror re-silvered.  After much searching, I finally found a craftsman named Bernd, owner of Designer Glass at 3223 South La Cienega Avenue (not Boulevard) in Los Angeles 90232.  I took the antique mirror with all of its imperfections and thought as I walked in, “Finally I’ve found someone to make this mirror look good.”  “Bernd,” I called out.  “Are you here?”  “Yah, I’ll be right der,” came the voice from the other room.  In a moment we shook hands and I said, “I’m lucky to have found you.  Here’s the mirror I’d like to have re-silvered.”  He looked at the mirror, looked at me and said, “Why?”  “Well. Um… I started to mutter….”  He continued,” It’s worth more the way it is.  All the designers come in here looking for mirrored glass like this.”  Then he showed me a mirror he’d made where he on purpose did a flawed job with the re-silvering to make the mirror look antique.

Well, that was that.  It was perfect the way it was. (Duh!) It was simple to install our (suddenly “designer”) mirror into the frame that Roxy had so beautifully repainted.  Bernd tapped in several glazing points to secure the mirror.  (I’ve glazed many a double-hung window in old houses, and these glazing points are nothing new to me.  Maybe we’ll glaze a window together for a future Handy Hazzan episode.)  I told Bernd I was the Handy Hazzan and he said, “Well, since you’re handy, just run a bead of clear silicone around the edge of the back of the mirror [thus covering the glazing points and securing the mirror in Roxy’s frame]) when you get home. “ Happily, I had some clear silicone left in a tube at home and ialready in my caulking gun.  I did so later that evening.

As I left the shop my mind started racing.  I had some knowledge of antiques, much of it picked up years ago when I lived about ten miles north of the GW Bridge in a little bedroom community called Pearl River.  When I was furnishing my house up there, I met a woman who brought me in to run estate sales with her.  I learned a lot.  Surely I must have known that the antique mirrors with the old, “imperfect” reflections were worth more just the way they were.  Why had I been so eager to re-silver this mirror? 

Maybe I simply wanted it to look the best it could for Roxy, so that when she looked into it every day, she would see the best reflection of herself.  That seems reasonable, I thought.  Then it hit me.  In my desire for Roxy to have the most perfect reflection of herself, I was denying her the individuality of this mirror, with all its imperfections, and in some way her own individuality.  And I realized that just like this mirror – this one-of-a-kind mirror with all of its flaws – our greatest value as individuals is that there is no one else like us.  Our uniqueness is what gives us our intrinsic and inestimable value.  And if we are all created in G-d’s image, B’tzelim Elohim, doesn’t that make us perfect anyway, given all of our “imperfections?” I know that sounds too simple.  Perhaps my rabbinic pals will give me the Up’shat of this story.  We love comments…. and Remez is emes.

Roxy blew my whole thesis of individuality out the window when she said, “Y’know, Daddy, everyone has a twin in the world.”  That’s a bit of a myth, and how could everyone on the planet have an identical twin?  For those of you interested, this is called the Doppleganger Theory.  Like…whatever!  I hung Roxy’s mirror the next day.  It looks great. (See photo.)
HANGING A MIRROR:  When the silicone bead dried, the glass was firmly set in the frame and it was time to hang Roxy’s mirror.  Here’s how I did it: