Hello, Anyone Home? Can I Come In?
I know too many people who spend a fortune on decorating and renovating their homes. They shuttle in designers from other states, then bring in the bulldozers, build extensions, cedar closets, steam rooms, top it off with crown molding, granite counters, imported marble from Italy and furniture from France. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with that. But the problem is that after they’ve designed the castle in the sky, they don’t let anyone into their homes. The front doormat reads, “Not Welcome.” There is no true hospitality other than the showing off party and the eat your-heart-out tour that’s catered with cold crudités and even colder hearts.
Is your newly beautified home or old one hosting Shabbat and holiday dinners and open to those who have no place to go, people going through a hard time who are lonely, abandoned, down and out or poor? Do the disenfranchised have a place at your table? Does God? For whom are you expanding the empire truly when in fact most of the time you find your comfy corner and spend your time in that same place on your laptop or cell phone with your head and heart miles away from the miles of new tiles you’ve just laid down.
We learn the proper example to follow from our forefather Abraham. His tents were open on all sides so people coming from any direction would have an open door and be warmly greeted. For not only is it necessary to fulfill a guest’s physical needs, but even more so, their emotional need of feeling welcomed and wanted. Not doing so is a big sin. If a guest leaves your house with a generous “doggy bag” but in tears or shame, it’s better to give the treats to a dog until you yourself learn how to be a mensch. Abraham was greatly blessed for seeing the humanity and godliness in each person and treating even strangers exceptionally well.
In contrast to Abraham, we learn how the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because they were averse to hospitality, so much so, its inhabitants would kill their own neighbors if they extended kindness to strangers. If an unfortunate person would find shelter in their midst, they’d be given the S&G treatment: if they were too tall to fit in a bed their legs would be cut off and if they were too short, they’d be cruelly stretched. No matter what your size, guests did not fit into the Sodom and Gomorrah mentality.
I’m not trying to put any decorators out of business. For we learn in this week’s Torah reading that God Himself is a great designer. In fact, numerous parashas in the Torah deal with God’s very specific instructions as to how to design, measure and decorate the Tabernacle, its vessels and accessories. From acacia wood to pure gold overlays, to cooper and silver and curtains, down to the detail and moldings, God too loves His house down here on earth. And He wants it the way He wants it, as His supernal blueprint has reverberations and impact beyond our limited comprehension. But the one thing we can understand with our limited insight, is that the Tabernacle wherein God was to be served by the Israelites was not meant to take the Israelites’ eyes out with its gilded grander, but rather to extract service of the heart, devotion and awe from them. It was a place constructed here on earth as a dwelling place for the Divine. Our own homes too, whether they be simple or sumptuous, are also meant to be abodes wherein God can dwell. But, when we ignore that truth, and evict God to make room for more foreign imports, the walls come crashing down and if not always physically then with business problems, health issues, family upsets, etc. “And if it displeases you to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we shall serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)
Last week, in my article, “Where is the Jew in You?,” I questioned whether we are using each of our body parts to serve God. This week I ask, “How are you using your home, its contents and what you own to serve God?” When is the last time you used your car to offer an old lady standing at the bus stop a lift? Have you prayed over the bread that’s on your table? Are your Mikasa dishes kosher? Are the walls in your home witnesses to prayers or gossip? Beware one day they will testify against you? Does your kitchen counter have a charity box on it too or only a repurposed cookie jar with emergency cash. Have you only uplifted your spirits with fancy scented candles or have you struck a match to light Shabbat candles. Takes the same amount of time, but when these holy wicks die the mitzvah still glows eternally. With our cash we know how to maximize returns with wise investments, in what way are you using your blessings to earn more blessings and to make your whole life an altar to God.
The three Hebrew letters on your front door mezuzah are--shin, dalet, yud--they stand for shomer daltot Yisrael, the Guardian of the doors of Israel. They also spell one of God’s ineffable names. But as that beautiful mezuzah is angled to point toward your home, are you really deserving of God’s protection? What in your home and behavior therein is sanctifying Him and His name that would give Him incentive to even want to do anything for you? Forget market value, when God assess your home, would it hold any true worth at all according to His criteria?
Some say home is where the heart is. But if God and His will do not dwell among you, do you really have a heart?