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Our Home Is Not Here

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The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. Proverbs 3:33

Recently, the Jewish people lost a holy woman. Henny Machlis lost her battle to cancer just a few months ago, but her legacy will live on for generations. Henny was no ordinary woman. After leaving New York and making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) with her husband decades ago, the Machlis family settled in Jerusalem. What made this family so unique was the outstanding hospitality that they provided.

Anyone could show up to their home for a Sabbath meal. Tourists, students, paupers, and even mentally ill individuals were welcomed with open arms. Henny was the power behind it all, cooking meals to feed 300 guests every weekend, hosted in a rather small and modest apartment.

At Henny's funeral, her son Moshe told a very telling story about his mother. He recalled how after he had married and moved away to study the Torah full-time, his mother told him that if he ever had trouble financially, he should tell her and she would sell her jewelry to help him. Tearfully, Moshe cried out, "Ima (mother), you forgot that you don't have any jewelry. It had all been stolen by the guests over the years. Even your diamond ring - it was borrowed 20 years ago and never returned."

Henny Machlis possessed almost nothing, and yet, she had everything joy, love, and peace seemed to radiate from her face. She was a truly blessed woman.

Scripture tells us that "The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous." While the verse seems fairly straightforward, the original Hebrew contains a bit of a mystery. The word for "house" used in reference to the wicked is bayit, while the word for "home" used in reference to the righteous is niveh. Bayit describes a permanent home while niveh alludes to a temporary space. Why is the wicked person blessed with an established permanent home while the righteous only get a flimsy temporary station?

The Jewish sages explain that verse refers to how the wicked and righteous view life. The wicked see this world as their permanent dwelling place. This is the root of their evil. They live for the here and now without any thought to the future or afterlife. The righteous, on the other hand, see their stay on earth as temporary. This directs their righteous actions as they place far more value on good deeds than on fine possessions.

Let us all take a lesson from this scripture and from Henny Machlis. May we recognize that our stay here is brief and that our possessions are merely a means for doing good. Let us value eternal life more than temporary comfort; then we shall be truly blessed.

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