“Home is where the heart is.” We often here this idiom as a way of comforting a person who is homesick, missing their home, but we define the word home in different ways. For some, it is the physical dwelling in which they live or grew up, the physical space on a specific street. For others, home is wherever they’ve landed. Sometimes we establish our “home” by decorating it a certain way, hanging pictures, or getting to know our neighbors. Other times we are “home” when we’re in a city that conjures memories of a wonderful experience. Whatever our reasons, we have an attachment to our “home.”
Our Torah is full of various mentions of holy spaces. Whether it is an altar that one of our forefathers built in order to make an offering to God or the mention of a place of burial, we are inundated with those moments that change an ordinary place into an extraordinary place. In the beginning of Sefer Shemot, God even instructs Moshe to take off his shoes because the ground he stands on is sacred. Archaeologists and biblical scholars have spent countless years trying to pin point exactly where each of the sacred spaces is located, yet we remain unsure. In fact, Mount Sinai, the place where God sent down those 10 “rules to live by,” is unidentifiable in our current world.
What we do have is an attachment to a tiny piece of land and those few exact locations we’ve been able to pin point, such as the site of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple. This site is a must-see on tourist trips through the land among other stopping at places that have a connection to the past as we try to find some meaning in the present for the future. As human beings, we have a deep desire for concrete objects and tangible evidence of forces in our world. We believe there is wind because we can feel it or see the leaves moving on the trees. We cannot “see” gravity, but know it exists because we’re not floating freely through the air. But where we run into trouble is wrapping our minds around God because there is no singular place, one object that we can identify as “God.”
Our parshah, parshat Terumah, addresses this innate desire for a physical representation of a metaphysical source. God instructs the Israelites to bring gifts of their heart to aid in the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle which will travel with them on their journey. The Hebrew wordMishkan, from the root Shin, Chaf, Nun, means to rest. Chapter 25, verse 8 commands the Israelites, “And they should make for me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among them.” God will not literally rest inside this Tabernacle; rather, this sanctuary makes tangible the concept of the indwelling of the divine Presence, God’s immanence. The people, who have journeyed from place to place, are in need of a “home base,” a place to which they can turn where everything is familiar and comfortable. Symbolically the Mishkan is for God, but on every other level its purpose is really for the people, serving as the physical marking of God’s presence. God does not dwell in theMishkan, God dwells among us in our hearts when we work to build a holy, sacred community.
Family Discussion Questions:
1. Our “ethical covenant” instructs us to act with Kedusha, holiness. How can your family build a Kehillah Kedosha, a sacred community?
2. Complete the sentence: Home is… What makes a “home”? Do you have multiple “homes”?