A weekly column examing Hebrew words in the Torah portion
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer
"We would like to purchase a house," my wife said to the
real estate agent sitting eagerly across from us.
"Great! You came to the right place. What are your requirements?"
"It's a starter home," my wife answered, "so we want something
nice and simple, with a few bedrooms, garage, back
"And of course enough room for the Shechinah," I piped
"The what?" the woman asked in surprise.
"The Shechinah. You know, the presence of God. It dwells
in every Jewish home, so I want to make sure we have enough
room for it."
I wasn't surprised by the woman's dumbfounded
look, for I had already seen it
on the faces of the previous two real estate agents.
At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, God tells Moses
to tell the Jews, "They shall make for Me a sanctuary,
so that I may dwell among them" (Exodus
25:8). This verse has an obvious grammatical problem -
why does God mention a singular sanctuary,
with a plural "them"? One common explanation is that God is telling
us that we should make ourselves and our homes into mini-sanctuaries.
Just as God placed His presence into the sanctuary while the Jews were in the desert, if we make our homes into places of
holiness and love of God, He will dwell
in them, and they will become mini-sanctuaries.
Gematria, a system in which each Hebrew letter has a numerical
equivalent, provides a clue as to how we can achieve this.
The word house, Bayit, has the value of 412.
The word sanctuary, Mikdash (literally 'place of holiness') has the value of 444. The difference?
32, which is the value of Lev, heart.
God is teaching us that by placing our hearts, our complete energies and abilities into our homes, we will succeed in making
them into dwelling places for the Shechinah.
The Chidah, a 19th century Sephardic commentator, wrote a list of 22 feelings that a person should have when
doing a mitzvah, corresponding to the
22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. For the letter Lamed, the Chidah tells us that each person must put
his Lev, his heart into every mitzvah. To fulfill the mitzvah of
creating a Jewish home, we must put all we have into it.
As the Kotzker Rebbe, a 19th century chassidic
leader said, "God is where you let him in." Creating a place for the Shechinah is
not the responsibility of the real estate agent
or the builder. It is the responsibility of each one of us, to put our hearts into our
homes and make them into proper dwelling places for God.
column is dedicated in memory of Dan Miller.
Gros, an alumnus of Emory University, writes from Israel, where he learns
at Yeshiva Marbeh Torah.
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