BRING IT HOME
Enhancing spirituality and knowledge in the synagogue are, to me, important parts of growth as a Jew and as a human being. Paying attention to my obligations to God in ritual behavior (prayer, using tallit and t’fillin, being part a minyan) are important, perhaps vital, to a full Jewish life. I say perhaps because I know plenty of people who, while they are very Jewish in their attitudes and cultural lives, are not particularly observant. There are lots of folks out there who identify with our people, celebrate our calendar events and holidays and support our homeland in Israel without getting overly involved in the religious aspect. Assuming that the way they live their secular lives is mentchlik, I cannot but respect and admire them.
That being said, for me and I think for many, the spiritual and prayerful life is more rewarding. However, it can’t be confined to the synagogue. Our homes, especially, but certainly not only, with children, need to be as our tradition says, and Rabbi Wise reminded us recently, “The Temple in miniature”, not only a model of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem but also a model of holiness and decency.
Our homes are where we have other opportunities to put into practice the spirituality and reverence we have learned. We place mezzuzot on our front doorways and frequently, the interior doorways of our homes. This is not done for good luck. The mezuzah is not some sort of amulet; its placement “on the doorposts of your houses and upon your gates” is mandated in the Torah in each of the first two paragraphs of the Shema. It reminds us, as we enter and pass through our homes, of who we are and to Whom we are obligated and answerable.
I imagine that most of us remember, with nostalgic fondness, the warm, joyous, noisy, crowded and delicious Passover seders of our youth. They filled our hearts with the joy of family camaraderie and unmitigated love (and the echo of someone yelling “when do we eat?”). There are any number of other home observances which can enhance our sense of holiness and nearness to God. Maintaining a kosher home and saying a blessing before eating add a level of kiddushah, holiness, to the otherwise mundane act of fueling our bodies. The home observances of the holidays, with special meals and food, kiddush over wine (or juice) and blessing our children bring something extra to the table. Even the little sprinkle of salt on the challah is reminiscent of the Temple sacrifices which required that each offering include salt. There is something really sweet about reciting Havdalah at home, standing together as a family wishing the Sabbath a fond farewell.
Jewish books or books on subjects that we, as Jews, are concerned with such as politics, morality, sociology enhance our lives. Secular subjects from history to math to the sciences and the arts contribute to our growth as knowledgeable members of the greater society and more interesting people. Appreciation of music and art, Jewish and secular, actually help in spiritual growth and make us more rounded individuals, thus more interesting to our peers and neighbors and more socially aware and active.
I could go on with additional examples, but the point is that Judaism is not just a house of worship religion. The home and practice in the home may be even more important. Home is where we model for and teach our children. Home is where we tell each other and ourselves that religion, religious practice and the personal behaviors of our everyday lives AND our association with the broader community are what define who and what we really are. It is where we create the kinds of memories that will make us and our families want to perpetuate the traditions. In my mind, one of the most important phrases in our liturgy is the simple two words “l’Dor vaDor”, from generation to generation; home is where that happens.