Parshas Terumah – Sanctuary of a Home

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THE MISHKAN: TOO MANY PESUKIM?

וידבר השם אל משה לאמר: דבר אל בני ישראל ויקחו לי תרומה. Now begins a subject which occupies more space in the Torah than any other matter – the building of the Mishkan. It’s remarkable that ma’aseh bereishis, the work of Creation, occupies only thirty-one p’sukim in the Torah, whereas the building of the Mishkan fills many parshiyos. We see a vast universe, a never-ending amount of trillions of star-worlds that boggles the mind. And even the small little earth that we live on is a tremendous and complicated cacophony of diverse creation. And it all seems so fascinating, so important. And yet the Torah describes its creation in thirty-one short p’sukim. That’s all! Creation of the world, shamayim v’aretz, is a little blip in the Torah. But the Mishkan, the residence of Hashem in the midst of the Am Yisroel, that’s already a different story. One parsha, another parsha, and another parsha. P’sukim, and p’sukim and more p’sukim. Terumah, Tetzaveh, parts of Ki Sisah, Va’yakhel, Pikudei. Every year, when we read the details of the Mishkan, we are surprised by how much space is given to this topic. The construction of a temporary dwelling, a building that would only last for less than forty years, is the biggest subject of the Torah.

 

So it behooves us to understand why a passing phenomenon deserves so much of our attention. It’s surprising! Halachos, laws of the Torah, that are to be practiced by us forever and ever, all right. Maybe the history of our forefathers, how they led their lives, I understand. But a passing phenomenon that didn’t last long, should take up so much space in the eternal Torah? Forever and ever we read the details, again and again, of how they were commanded to do it, and then how they did it, and then after they did it, how they dedicated the Mishkan. All for something that didn’t last.

 

THE CENTER OF HASHEM’S ATTENTION

What does that tell us? What are we supposed to understand from this seemingly unbalanced descriptions found in the Torah? And so, we’ll explain as follows. Hashem is demonstrating to us that the vast phenomenon of space, containing millions of worlds, is inferior to the little edifice which was erected in the Midbar. It’s a stunning concept that declares the supremacy of the Am Yisroel. We are the center of Hashem’s attention; we are what He is thinking about always.

 

ושכנתי בתוכם – “And I shall reside in their midst” (ibid. 25:8). We build a home for Him and He makes His residence among us! It’s an astonishing statement that defies all logic. Hashem lives in a home?! Hashem is infinite, and not a physical being. His reality transcends any space-measurement, and any home, even the most palatial residence is nothing to Hashem. And therefore, what this actually means is that the Am Yisroel is the purpose of the Universe. And Hashem’s presence in the midst of the people is a stunning declaration by the Creator of the entire universe, that this small nation is the center of His thoughts. The primary reason for Hashem residing among us in such an open manner is for the purpose of permanently reminding us that He has chosen us as His people. We are the center of His attention! “They shall make for me a place of holiness and I shall dwell in their midst” (ibid. 25:8).

 

HASHEM’S LIVES DOWN THE BLOCK

No concept could be more astonishing than the thought that the Creator of the Universe, Whose glory fills the endless remoteness of space, would choose to dwell in a tabernacle. We can picture the intoxication of ecstatic excitement that seized upon Moshe and the people at this announcement. The knowledge, more than knowledge – the sight – of the residence of Hashem in the midst of the camp was a vivid reminder for the people that they were always standing before the Presence of Hashem. The Mishkan was a powerful stimulus to a keen Awareness of His Presence. The people could point out the dwellings of the shiv’im z’keinim, the seventy Elders, as well as the tents of the levi’im, of Aharon and Moshe; and in exactly the same manner they could point to the Mishkan and say: “And over here dwells Hashem!”

 

We must not overlook the effect of the Mishkan upon the tent-homes of the Am Yisroel. The Mishkan was of course a larger tent, but because it stood among the tents of the camp it had an unfailing effect on every tent in the camp. And the most outstanding effect was the demonstration that Hashem had chosen us from all the nations. We are the center of the Universe, for Hashem here declared ושכנתי בתוכם – “I will dwell [forever] in your midst.”

 

But even more than a demonstration of His presence among us, it was a demonstration of our obligation to Him. Because living constantly before the Presence of Hashem, and being ever mindful of His interest in us, means being ever mindful of the uninterrupted service of Him that He expects from us. He has no interest in the religions of the other nations. שהם משתחוים להבל וריק. He has no desire for the empty moral and ethical proclamations of any of the nations. חסד לאומים חטאת. And that’s why He chose to dwell among us, and only among us. He dwells only in the midst of the Am Yisroel, because He cares only about our avodah. He’s watching and listening carefully to every lone Jew wherever he may be, because it is the avodas Hashem of His people that is His only interest in the world.

 

THE BUILDING OF THE MISHKAN AND THE BUILDING OF THE WORLD

And that’s why the gemara tells us that גדולים מעשה צדיקים יותר ממעשה שמים וארץ – “What the righteous do, what they accomplish, is greater than the creation of  heaven and earth” (Kesubos 5a). And a possuk is brought that teaches us this. Hakodosh Boruch Hu created the world with one hand, so to speak: אף ידי יסדה ארץ – “My right hand founded the world” (Yeshaiah 48:13). And yet the accomplishment of building the Mishkan was done with two hands: מקדש השם כוננו ידיך – “Your two hands established the Sanctuary, the Mishkan” (Shemos 15:17). Now, who are these “two hands of Hashem” that established the Mishkan? Who made the Mishkan? It was the people of the dor hamidbar, the generation of the Wilderness, who were acting as agents of Hashem. That was the מעשה צדיקים – it was those tzadikim who built the Mishkan. And the possuk says that it’s called a building that was created with two hands: כוננו ידיך. It was building a structure which is greater than the original Creation, a creation that is attributed to one hand alone, ידי יסדה ארץ.

 

Without knowing any sisrei Torah, any secrets of the Torah, we understand that the Torah is teaching us something very important here. And that is the important principle that this world was created for the sole purpose of the service of Hashem. The entire briyah, the purpose of Creation, is only to serve as a backdrop for the actions of those who serve Him. עיני השם אל צדיקים – “Hashem is looking [only] at those who do acts of righteousness” (Tehillim 34:16).

 

THE WORLD IS ONLY THE SCENERY FOR THE AM YISROEL

And therefore, when they made the Mishkan, it was considered a greater achievement than anything else, greater than even the entire creation that Hashem made. And that’s because the purpose of the creation means nothing by itself. The stars and galaxies, the oceans and continents mean nothing except to serve as the the backdrop, and the tools, for serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And therefore, the building of the Mishkan, a place dedicated to unadulterated service of Hashem, is more important than the millions of galaxies, more significant than the tallest of skyscrapers, and more valuable than the most palatial palaces. Because it is a place of service of Hashem – a place where one always knew that he was walking through the residence of Hashem, and where Awareness of Hashem reigned supreme.

 

The creation of shamayim v’aretz came first, not because of its importance, but because it is the backdrop, the scenery, for the emergence of the Am Yisroel. And the emerging of the Am Yisroel onto the stage of history came only for the purpose of those who would serve Hashem. And that’s what the Gemara (ibid.) is emphasizing: גדולים מעשה צדיקים – the Mishkan is an extremely great achievement, even more than the creation of the universe; because that is the purpose of the universe.

 

THE COFFEE MACHINE IN THE BEIS HAMIKDASH

It is impossible to even begin to understand the book of Vayikra unless we appreciate the following: the Ohel Mo’ed was the most important place in the entire universe. And that’s because the acts of service of Hashem that took place there – and even every movement in the Ohel Mo’ed – was done only with Him in mind. It is not merely a korban olah being brought on a mizbei’ach. It is not some mere technicalities of the par of the Kohen Gadol that we study or a korban mincha and lechem hapanim that we see in the picture books. Every detail is not merely essential and valuable, but it is of utmost importance in comparison to the entire world and even to the entire universe, because it is a place where every detail is an act of service of Hashem. Nothing else occurs in the Mishkan. There were no coffee machines to congregate around, and no couches to relax on. No newspapers and magazines. Even the best kinds, the most Orthodox ones would not be found in the Mishkan. And that’s because every act done, was done before His Presence, and was an act of avodas Hashem.

 

THE FIRST MISHKAN THAT YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT

But it is important to realize that the Mishkan was not the first house that was erected in dedication to Hashem. It wasn’t the first sanctuary wherein all that took place was done in the presence of Hashem and for the sake of His service. No, that glorious designation is reserved for the tent of Avraham and Sarah. It was by no means a palatial residence, and it was not even a real house. It was merely a tent. But the home of Avraham and Sarah became the place where the Shechina resided. They created with painstaking care a Mishkan so beautiful that Hashem declared that He was forsaking the vast spaces of the universe and was bringing the presence of the Divine Shechina into the little territory of their tent. There were no ceiling beams or even floors; it was small enough to fold together and transport on the backs of camels. And yet, because Avraham and Sarah lived so nobly, they transformed their little tent into the first Mishkan.

 

THE MISHKAN: A CLONE OF THE TENT OF AVRAHAM

And that’s why the Sages teach us that the Mishkan in the wilderness was merely an echo of the tents of our Avos and Imahos. The Ramban, in his hakdamah to Shemos, writes that after the Avos and Imahos passed away the Shechina no longer had a place to reside. It was only many years later when the Am Yisroel were able to rise to the status of the Avos and Imahos, who felt themselves before the Presence of Hashem always, that the Shechinah returned to settle in this world, in the Mishkan. The Avos and Imahos had succeeded in creating a home over which the Shechina had hovered. And therefore, the exile of the Shechina was terminated only when the Am Yisroel built a Mishkan in the wilderness, to replicate that tent.

 

And in order to return to the level of the Avos, the level of Awareness of Hashem at all times, they first needed to become a nation of millions, that witnessed stupendous miracles. Heaven and earth were overturned on their behalf and they were electrified by seeing the Yam Suf split apart; and as they passed through the sea, they saw how the water poured down and engulfed their enemies. And then they stood at Har Sinai, and they heard the voice of Hashem. And it was only then that they were worthy to have restored to them the dwelling place of the Shechina, which had existed in the days of the Avos. Avraham and Sarah, of their own minds and their own freewill, had built the noblest home in history. And therefore the Mishkan was built in the wilderness as a replica and an echo of the greatness which the Avos had created.

 

And so we must ask ourselves: What was the greatness of that home that made it a model forever? And the answer is simple. Because Avraham and Sarah did everything with Hashem in mind, Hashem rested His Presence there. Every act was done for Hashem, and Hashem only. It is the service of Hashem that invites Hashem into your life, and creates the מרכבה upon which Hashem will rest His Presence. And that’s what the Ramban is telling us when he says that our Avos were the מרכבה, the chariot, upon which Hashem rested His Presence.

 

HASHEM IS TRULY EVERYWHERE

Everything was done with the understanding that they stood in the Presence of Hashem. Whatever Avraham and Sarah did in gashmiyus was ruchniyus. When Sarah was baking bread, she wasn’t just baking bread; she was preparing Menachos. She wasn’t merely learning Mesichta Menachos, she was baking the korban mincha. She was serving Hashem. She had hundreds of maidservants, but she herself was the one who baked for the wayfarers (Bereishis 18:6). And that is because the baking and cooking of food in the tent of Sarah was a function of service of Hashem – feeding her husband, a prophet of Hashem, as well as the many guests – and Sarah felt privileged to serve Hashem with her own two hands. “It is a greater mitzvah when done by one’s self, than by means of a messenger” (Kiddushin 41a). And Sarah understood that even in the privacy of her own tent, she was always standing before Hashem. And therefore, everything that took place in her tent was done in His service.

 

Chazal tell us that; they say that when Avraham prepared a par, a cow, for the guest that came to his tent, it was a greater than the par of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. The par of Yom Kippur was just an echo of the par that Avraham slaughtered for every visitor! And the wine that he poured was the model for the nesachim, the wine libations poured on the mizbei’ach. And you can be sure that the challos that Sarah baked were the prototype for all the challos that would one day be baked in the Beis Hamikdash – the lachmei todah, the lechem hapanim, the sh’tei lechem shel Atzeres – everything of this form that was done later in the Beis Hamikdash was following the prototype of Sarah’s baking. And it wasn’t only Sarah’s bread and Avraham’s par that were the models for the future Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash. They did everything for Hashem; and that remained forever the model of behavior when serving in the House of Hashem.

 

That tent was the place where these two great figures of our past, served Hashem with such a high intensity of thought, that forever and ever the Kohanei Hashem in the Mikdash tried to replicate their ways. And their home wasn’t like the Mishkan and the Mikdash where one had the function of acting out the service of Hashem – slaughtering the korbanos, sprinkling the blood on the corner of the mizbei’ach, baking the lechem haponim, and all of the numerous details of the avodah. In the tent of Avraham and Sarah it was genuine avodah of serving Hashem in all of one’s “mundane” activities. And it was that genuine avodah, and the enthusiasm and idealism of Avraham and Sarah, that the Kohanim try to replicate forever in the Mikdash.

 

THE MISHKAN IN 2018

And now we come to our subject for tonight. We don’t have the Mishkan in our midst like the Dor Hamidbar had. And we don’t have the Beis Hamikdash to visit three times a year. Those great replicas of the house of Avraham and Sarah, the little tent where the awareness of Hashem reigned supreme, are still only a figment of our dreams. But what we do have is an even greater opportunity than visiting the Beis Hamikdash. Because we have our own domiciles, our own homes, where we can always activate our free-will, and replicate the home of Avraham and Sarah. And therefore it will reward us to study that house and to prize every particle of information about it. Because their home was the genuine model for the Beis Hamikdash, and their home should therefore be the model for our homes, our private Mishkan.

 

Before considering any of the positive achievements of this great and noble home, we must follow in the path of Avraham and Sarah and be always vigilant to rid out homes of any negative influence. סור מרע ועשה טוב – “[First] turn away from evil and [then] do good” (Tehillim 34:15). The character of a home depends primarily on what enters it, and Sarah was well aware of her responsibility in this area of avodas Hashem.

 

SARAH THE MASHGIACH

We see that in the house of Sarah, every effort was made so that inside this holy house the people should be of the very best quality.  About Sarah, the posuk referring to the aishes chayil  is quoted. It says, צופיה הליכות ביתה – “She watches over and oversees – she supervises – what goes on in her house” (Mishlei 31:7). She is looking constantly to see if everyone is behaving properly in her house like the conscientious mashgiach of the Yeshiva with the watchful eye, lest someone doze off or become ensnared in time-wasting conversation. ותרא שרה [את ישמעאל] מצחק – “And Sarah saw that Yishmael was laughing” (Bereishis 21:9). “A moshav leitzim in my holy home?!”

 

Now, the meforshim say all kinds of things about mitzacheik, about what he did. But we’ll follow the peshuto shel mikrah and we’ll understand that that’s really what the chachomim meant. In the house of Sarah, if somebody is in a jesting mood, that’s avodah zora and gilui aroyas and that’s shfichas domim. Such a person, who wants to jest and make jokes in such a holy place, who knows what could happen to him?!

 

In Sarah’s house everyone had hadras kodesh. For a home to be a Mishkan there has to be an awareness that you are perpetually standing in the Presence of Hashem. There was holiness in that tent, and just as important, there was an awareness of that holiness. Now, I understand that that’s not such a comfortable house for us to be in. But for idealists, that’s the type of house they wanted. They wanted such an environment because they knew that that was their function in life. “Let others walk in darkness all their lives and become failures,” they said. “But we want an environment where we can serve Hashem.” And they thrived in such an environment. They loved it.

 

THE CLOWN DANCING IN YOUR SHUL

And so, when Sarah saw that Yishmael was jesting, that he was joking, she immediately took action. It must have been an innocent thing, his jesting. But a Sanctuary is no place for that. And so she said to Avraham that Yishmael cannot remain here any longer. She was stunned by what she saw. In her house somebody should jest?! They had spent so many years building up yiras Hashem in that house, and now this?! It’s like if somebody would come into your shul dressed like a clown and dance around – not on Purim. On a regular Shabbos or weekday, he’s dancing down the aisle in the shul, while people are davening and learning. You would be overcome by indignation. A chutzpah, to treat our Mikdash like this! And therefore Sarah, in her Beis Hamikdosh, when she saw this clown jesting and laughing, she told Avraham that Yishmael has to leave. And Hakodosh Boruch Hu approved of her words. He agreed with her. And so, Avraham and Sarah, al pi Hashem, fulfilled the words of Shlomo Hamelech “Drive out the scoffer,” (Mishlei 22:10) and they were thereby worthy of building a sanctuary to Hashem.

 

WATCHING TELEVISION IN THE BEIS HAMIKDASH

The pernicious evil which floods the home from the outside world threatens to drown even the best of swimmers. And the stupid conformance to the television cult is one of the worst of all floods. There are not enough words to warn of this evil which inundates the home. Imagine that great day when you finally are able to make the trek to the Beis Hamikdash to see that great House where the Presence of Hashem rests. And you make your way, with feelings of awe and trepidation, towards the Ohel Mo’ed to see for yourself the service of Hashem. So you peek through the entranceway and what do you see? A few Kohanim sprawled out on a couch with their eyes glued to the television where a goy is acting as foolish as he can. Stupidity. Stupidity of the most extreme kind! And the servants of Hashem, are sitting in the sanctuary of Hashem, the House dedicated for service to Him, and they are guffawing, their mouths open wide in laughter and leitzanus!

 

And that is exactly how Hashem sees the goings-on in your home. It is laughable to envision a Mishkan with a television, or anything with even the slightest resemblance to that box of abomination. And your home is a Mishkan! Our homes are to be modeled after the tent of Avraham and Sarah, whose tent was the prototype for all the future sanctuaries, our own homes included.

 

CLEANING YOUR HOME OF THE SEWER WATER

And therefore the general principle of the Torah לא תביא תועבה אל ביתך – “You shall not bring an abomination into your home” (D’varim 7:26) must be guarded zealously by the parents in a Jewish home. The obvious meaning is an idol, which is forbidden even as a souvenir or any other “benign” and “safe” purpose. But atheistic writings of any kind are worse than idolatry (Rambam Hilchos Edus 11:10). And we will say here that writings of leitzanus are most dangerous as well. Library books, and magazines, as well as the sickly miasma of the liberal newspapers and periodicals flood the home with filthy sewer water. And therefore, those who want to set up a Sanctuary and not an animal’s lair or a house of ill-repute must not be equivocal on this matter.

 

And in order to build this sanctuary the home must qualify as אהלי שם, the tents of Shem. From the Gemara (Yoma 10a) we learn that only when it is wholly of Shem can it be called the tent of Shem and a sanctuary for Hashem. Any admixture – even of the “virtuous” Yefes, and certainly of the non-virtuous, disqualifies your home from the designation of אהלי שם. And therefore, besides for a total rejection of all forms of media that can destroy a home, included in this, is the necessity to keep the unobservant away, even if they are relatives. It may require strategic tactfulness to prevent frequent visits or long stays by relatives who are not an asset to your Mikdash. But it is difficult to imagine a Mikdash dedicated to the service of Hashem, where the disloyal are allowed free entry with their mannerisms, their dress and their thoughts and suggestions. And therefore it is essential to do everything possible to avoid such contradictions to the ideal of the Jewish home.

 

“HASHEM,” “HASHEM,” ALL DAY LONG

And once a home is guarded against all unwanted and dangerous influences of the outside world, it becomes fertile ground for all the great ideals that create a Mishkan L’Hashem. In the tent of Avraham and Sarah, the name of Hashem was always in their minds and on their lips. ויקרא אברם בשם השם –  “And he called out with the name of Hashem” (Bereishis 13:4). And therefore, our first step is to train all those in the household, ourselves included, that the name of Hashem should always be on everyone’s lips.ELOKEUNU אלה ברכב ואלה בסוסים ואנחנו בשם השם אלוקינו נזכיר – “These nations live by the chariot and those people by horses, but we – from where does our power derive? – by the name of Hashem our G-d which we cause to be remembered [by always speaking of Him]” (Tehillim 20-8).  Constantly the parents should be saying, “If Hashem consents, we will do this.” And, “Thanks to Hashem we were able to do this. ” Everything should revolve around Hashem – because everything does. Of all names mentioned in the house, the name of Hashem must be heard most frequently and most loudly. And parents must set the example of attributing to Hashem every success and happiness.

 

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY?

Avraham and Sarah toiled to see the kindliness of Hashem in all of nature. And that’s what we must do as well. A mother can bestow lifelong happiness by saying, “Look, Chanala, it’s raining, isn’t that fun?!” Chanala has no previous prejudices against rain. She therefore agrees. And thereafter, all throughout her life, the rain will bring her pleasure. But if the mother says, “The rain has spoiled our day,” then whenever the rain comes, the child will view it with dissatisfaction because her subconscious mind harks back to the pattern which was stamped on her malleable mentality.

 

LOVING THE WIND

The wind is frequently represented as a nuisance. “It is windy; we can’t go out.” But the wind is a joy. It is exhilarating, and as it whips past the face it conveys ozone and carbon dioxide to stimulate breathing. If not for the wind, there would be no food, because wind keeps the air moving so that the minute amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (3 parts in 10,000) is made available to plants. If not, the plants would use up all the carbon dioxide and then would die. “The world cannot exist without wind” (Taanis 3b). When a child is told, “Moishele, the wind is blowing, isn’t that fun!” he replies, “Yes.” And for the rest of his life, whenever he goes out, whether in a May zephyr or a January blast, it is fun. Teach your children to delight in spring, to revel in the sunny summer, to love the vitality of autumn, and to relish the bracing winter and thereby be perpetually grateful to “the One Who changes the times and who orders the sequence of the seasons” (Birchos Kriyas Shema Shel Arvis).

 

HAPPINESS ALL DAY LONG

Teach the child to revel in the possession of two sound eyes, a healthy heart with two vigorous pumps that work in series, good lungs, bones that do not ache, the ability to enjoy sweet sleep, freedom from headache and toothache, the pleasure of efficient elimination, the joy of walking, the exhilaration of deep breathing, the appreciation of a cup of water, gratitude for enough to eat, enjoyment of liberty in a free country, the conveniences of electricity and gas and fuels, and many essentials and luxuries that sweeten our existence in this life.

We suggest to the children; “Isn’t everything good? Aren’t those trees beautiful? And look at the beautiful clouds?” When they go to bed, show them the moon: “Isn’t that a beautiful moon?” And for the rest of their lives whenever they see the moon, they will view it through your eyes and will recall with gratitude that you bestowed this joy upon them. It is of the utmost importance that children start out in life with rosy glasses through which everything appears in a happy light.

 

Suggest to them: “Don’t we love Hashem?” When you give him a desired toy or a delicacy, let him know  that it is from Hashem, just like Avraham did when he regaled wayfarers in his garden with the delights of Hashem.

 

TOV LEIV MISHTEH TOMID

And among the opportunities for joy in the Jewish home, how can we omit the subject of Yomim Tovim? Purim! That day must be made outstanding. We must apply ourselves to the career of adorning the home with as many holy festivities and Torah celebrations as possible. Pesach, Shavuos, Succos, Purim, Chanukah, Chamisha Asar B’shvat, Lag B’omer, and even Isru Chag and Rosh Chodesh should be made great in order to create an atmosphere of serving Hashem in happiness, whereby the home will be regarded as a place of the happiness of Torah idealism.

 

FOUR HOURS AT THE ZOO

The happiness of Yom Tov must be learned. It is not wrong to take children to the park; but that is simcha, and not simchas yom tov. We inculcate the true simcha by reminding them “Today is the Yom Tov of going out of Mitzrayim,” or “Today is the Yom Tov of the Giving of the Torah.” And even to sit with them even for a five-minute mesibah in honor of the special day, reminding them about the lessons of each Yom Tov. Such a little gathering on an afternoon is more effective than a four hour excursion to the zoo. Sit with them for a little while and sing together shirei kodesh – and be sure to explain to them these expressions of love of Hashem and His mitzvos so that the song sung should be meaningful. And suggest to them, “Aren’t we having a good time, kinderlach?” They will respond “Yes! But let’s go to the park!” And you’ll take them to the park. But you have already achieved an excellent effect, and in those few minutes you have laid a strong foundation.

 

OLAM HABAH AND GEHINNOM

Speak of the delights of Olam Haba. A beautiful morning, a turquoise sky, a gorgeous garden and other tangible delights can be pointed out as visible comparisons and intimations of the happiness of the Afterlife. The awareness of the World to Come is a foundation of ideology which must be laid in the earliest years.

 

Gehinnom must not be omitted when occasion presents itself, but not as a threat to force compliance. When a child is persecuted by enemies who revile him as a Jew, let him be confident that they shall receive recompense in Gehinnom.

 

MAKING YOUR HOME A “HOUSE OF PRAYER”

The house should be a place of tefillah, just as the Mikdash is called בית תפילתי, My house of prayer (Yeshaiah 56:7). In the home, the mother is a symbol of prayer. She is too busy with running the home to be able to pray long tefillos, but the Jewish mother has always been devoted to prayer. And whatever she prayed, it was always from the heart. A mother who knows that she is always standing before Hashem in her home, turns to Hashem for even the smallest matter. Every small cut on a child’s knee, a son’s Gemara bechina, and all things in between, are opportunities for a mother to speak in supplication before Hashem. She prays upon arising, and upon going to bed, for an unwell child, and for a child to remain on the right path. She always turns to Hashem asking that her husband should earn a livelihood and that there should always be enough in the house. This is what Sarah did in her Sanctuary, and this was one of the reasons that her home was so ennobled.

 

BRACHOS ALL DAY LONG

In the Jewish home not long ago, it was the practice that parents and children recited all the blessings in a loud voice. In a house full of children, words of brachos resounded on all sides in loud and enthusiastic voices as they thanked Hashem for everything. Around their holy table, they sat and thanked Hashem after eating. The father recited the blessings from his special big siddur which he used in honor of such occasions, although everyone knew the entire version by memory. He washed his fingers and took his siddur and intoned the words, and everyone sensed that this was a table where the Creator was being served in their own private Mishkan.

 

THE TZADIKIM ARE OUR HEROES

On the walls of the Jewish home hang portraits of the righteous. Some pious persons avoid pictures; but if you have a painting of a child in a garden, why should there not be pictures of the Gedolim? A home becomes transformed when the walls display the likeness of the Chofetz Chaim or the Vilna Gaon, or other righteous great people of our past. And the children look up at the hanging portraits and learn that these are our heroes.

 

KIBUD AV V’EIM

How essential it is to teach even little children to serve their parents! As soon as they are able, even though they break dishes in the attempt, the little ones should be trained to fetch for the mother a glass of water, to acquire the attitude that the mother is not their servant who waits to serve them.  And even though Chanaleh’s little hands are shaking as she holds the delicate glass, and the mother looks on, with her stomach turning, it is well worth it. As much as possible, let the mother sit and be served by the little hands and certainly by the older children. The father and mother must educate their children to regard them as king and queen, and thereby gradually make their offspring invulnerable to the reckless and destructive attitude of glorifying the youth at the expense of the adult generation.

 

THE SELF-CENTERED FAMILY

Children should know that happiness is found in the Jewish home, not outside on the streets. If a Jewish family is home-centered, because the home is their sanctuary, they are far from interested in travel, hotels, “eating out,” and other imitations of the ways of the nations. The children do not have expensive toys or generous allowances for spending. And even grown children do not have cars. Every child lives in the home until marriage and the family together avoids the lavish Bar Mitzvah parties and the expensive weddings. In the Mishkan of the home, there is a general aspiration to the simple natural lifestyle of avodas Hashem.

 

While teaching all these attitudes to the children, the parents themselves gradually grow greater and greater. The father and mother bestir and awaken their own potential excellence. And by vocalizing these ideals, they improve together with their children. “Much have I learned from my teachers, more from my friends, but from my disciples I learned most.”(Taanis 7a).

 

And that Mishkan that you build is an achievement that is forever. And even if one day when you are an old man or woman already, and you go back to visit your old apartment, and you see that it was bulldozed down, and in its place is a condominium that is being built, don’t despair. Don’t think for a moment that your Mishkan has been destroyed.

 

SARAH DEPARTS TO MEET HER MAKER

And I’ll explain something al pi dikduk. The word מות, to die, is connected with the word מוש, to depart. לא ימושו מפיך and מש מתוך האהל – you see that מש means to depart. מות and מוש are almost the same. And that’s why in lashon kodesh, when a person dies we don’t say he died. We say that he was מת, he moved on to a different place.

 

That’s not drush, by the way. It’s not said by me. It’s said by older writers, kadmonim. And so ותמת שרה means “and Sarah moved out of this world and stood before the Presence of Hashem.” And because she had toiled her whole life with the knowledge that she was standing in front of Hashem in her own little tent, she fulfilled her purpose in life and was now able to bask in the Presence of Hashem in the Next World.

 

And her tent didn’t die either. Because what she built in that home, all the idealism and enthusiasm for Hashem that she planted in her home, would remain forever and ever in the Am Yisroel, as we in our own homes attempt to replicate the work of Sarah and Avraham. And therefore, every child, man and woman, who descended from Sarah and Avraham, should study this picture of our great ancestors and understand that this is their function too. By emulating their home to the best of our abilities and putting all that we can into our homes, we keep alive forever the tent of Sarah and Avraham.

We learn Torah in the home, we do mitzvos in the home, and we bring up children with idealism for everything connected to Hashem. We teach kindliness and good character in the home all day long. We grow from each Shabbos and Yom Tov, and every day of the week, and we speak of Hashem always; and this is because ושכנתי בתוכם – Hakodosh Boruch Hu dwells in the midst of the Am Yisroel forever.

 

THE BEST CLOTHING FOR A WOMAN

Sarah was the eishes cha’yil who was always צופיה הליכות ביתה, she never stopped supervising her home to see that all was being done al pi Hashem; and therefore עוז והדר לבושה – “She is clothed in strength and beauty.” That means that although she may not spend too much money on herself, on jewelry and clothing, but she is clothed in such strength and beauty that it will last forever.

 

LAUGHING YOUR WAY TO OLAM HABAH

עוז means garments that will last forever. And הדר means that these are the most beautiful garments that one can acquire in this world. And those garments won’t reek of the filthy smell of the styles of Paris! Because you can be sure that in the Next World, that clothing reeks like manure. No, these most beautiful garments are the garments of good character, middos tovos, yir’as shamayim, awareness of Hashem, idealism and enthusiasm for Torah attitudes, and loyalty to Hashem and to the Torah home. Those are the garments with which Sarah clothed herself. And therefore ותשחק ליום אחרון – “And she laughs at the last day.” Which means she looks forward with confidence to the last day. Because death means nothing to the one who built an everlasting Mishkan, generations of ovdei Hashem, in this world. The end of one’s life is only a doorway, and one steps over the threshold into the Next World, and there you find the reward of all the glory that you put into the building of a Mishkan within the four walls of your own home.

Have a wonderful Shabbos.