How do we bring holiness into the Jewish home?
Two thousand years ago when the Maccabees entered the Temple and lit the Menorah, they celebrated chanukat habayit, the rededication of the second Temple in Jerusalem. The essence of the Beit Hamikdash, the Temple, was to make a house of God and to create a space for the presence of God to reside.
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik taught that this insight teaches us an invaluable lesson about the purpose of our own homes: if the Temple could be transformed into a house then the private home of a Jew can be transformed into a Temple.
We welcome God into our homes by sanctifying the three corresponding objects: the bed, the table, and the lamp.
The bed in our homes represents family purity and shalom bayit. God’s presence resides in the home when there is a deep sensitivity and love shared between a husband and wife.
The table represents the mitzvot that surround the place of eating in our homes, such as eating kosher food, reciting blessings over food, and the mitzvah of welcoming guests. Our homes are sanctified when we transform our material blessings into spiritual sustenance for our family and those in need.
The lamp, which offers tangible light, is also a symbol of God’s spiritual light; wisdom and enlightenment. The light represents the study of Torah: “For a commandment is like a candle, and the Torah is light” ( Proverbs, 6:23). When we learn and share the teachings of the Torah with our family and with all those that join us in our home, we nourish the home with a spiritual dimension.
In Jewish life all through the millenia, God has always been an honored presence in the Jewish home. Jews have always thought that God was a regular visitor in their homes and hearts, and therefore have taken the Divine Presence into account in their everyday behavior and speech. The Jewish People have always had the conviction that God was somehow present, calling out to his People in a challenging, comforting, encouraging, and inspiring way.
(The Light That Unites, p. 82)
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