24 Dec Transforming Our Homes Into a Holy Sanctuary
The Chashukei Chemed teaches us that if, G-d forbid, a Jew is homeless and sleeps on the park bench, he is exempt from the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah menorah. This is because the mitzvah of menorah is ner ish u’beiso, the menorah was enacted to be lit in one’s home. This halacha begs another question. Why did Chaza”l, our Rabbis of blessed memory, attach the Chanukah mitzvah to the house? Since the miracle of Chanukah occurred with the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash, and nowadays our synagogues are considered our mikdash me’at, our mini-sanctuaries, why didn’t Chaza”l establish the lighting of the menorah in our shuls? Perhaps Chaza”l could have even enacted that a Kohein should light the menorah just as was done in the Beis HaMikdash.
I’m sure some of my astute readers are already thinking about the answer: Every Jewish home is supposed to be transformed into a mikdash. That’s why we wish a chassan and kallah that they should build for themselves a bayis ne’eman and mikdash me’at, a home of faith and a mini-sanctuary. Since the Jewish home is supposed to be a mikdash, Chaza”l attached the Chanukah ritual to one’s home.
How do we convert a home into a mikdash? There is a beautiful gematria that reveals the answer. The gematria of bayis [home] is 412; the gematria of mikdash is 444. The difference between the two is 32, which is the gematria of lev, heart. Thus, we see that if we inject heart into our homes, we transform it into a mikdash.
What exactly do we mean by heart? The heart is repository of one’s feelings and emotions. If we conduct ourselves with our spouses with feeling and not only with a sense of duty and quid pro quo attitude, we are creating a sanctuary. If we say our prayers, our berachos, and our bentching with passion instead of by rote and because we have to, we are creating a mikdash. If we invest in our children because they are our dreams and not because it is our duty, we are building a mikdash.
Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, zy”a, points out that there are only 31 verses in the Torah that discuss the creation of the world and all of the cosmos. On the other hand, the blueprint for the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which would only exist for 39 years in a relatively small patch of the desert, takes up four and a half parshios in the Torah; namely Terumah, Tetzaveh, part of Ki Sisa, Vayakeil and Pekudei. Rav Miller explains that this is because the Mishkan is really a blueprint for how we can transform our homes into a holy Mishkan.
Although the proper explanation of this deserves a full-length paper, let me just point out a few quick ideas. The centerpiece of the Mishkan in the Holy of Holies was the Aron HaKodesh which housed the Torah and the Luchos. So too, in every Jewish home Torah should be front and center. Seforim should not be relegated to a side room; they should be prominently and proudly presented and displayed as you walk into the main parlor of the home. Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, zy”a, used to say that for this reason the main room of the house should be the dining room and not the living room because it is in the dining room that the learning gets done as the central activity of the home.
Also in the Holy of Holies were the kruvim sitting on top of the Torah, teaching us that a central focus of the Jewish home should be the raising of the boys and girls to a life of Torah. That should be its focus and ambition. Finally, when Klal Yisroel was behaving properly, the kruvim were locked in an embrace teaching us that the mission statement of every good Jewish home should be peace and tranquility above all else.
May it be the will of Hashem that as we light in our homes the Chanukah lights, may we be successful in transforming our homes in to mini sanctuaries, and in that merit may we be blessed with a joyous Chanukah, good health, happiness, and everything wonderful.