Our Miniature Temple
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein | March 2, 2017
“Make special containers of pure gold for the table—bowls, pans, pitchers, and jars—to be used in pouring out liquid offerings. Place the Bread of the Presence on the table to remain before me at all times.” — Exodus 25:29–30 NLT
The Torah portion for this week is Terumah, which means “contributions,” from Exodus 25:1–27:19, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 5:26–6:13.
A table, bowls, pans, pitchers, jars, and bread . . . these items sound like they belong more in our family homes than in the House of God! Yet, when we look at the items that God commanded for His Temple we find that they are precisely the same things we would use to furnish our homes: the menorah to provide light; the table for the bread; and the water basin for washing up. The Jewish sages explain that the similarities are no accident as the two homes — ours and God’s — are deeply connected. But how can they possibly compare the House of God to a home for mere mortals?
The sages go on to explain that when God commanded Israel to make Him a home, the purpose was “so I can live among them” (Exodus 25:8). God wants to be with us, but in order for that to happen, we have to become deserving of His presence. The Tabernacle, and later the Temple, would help us do that. It was a place where the people went to atone for their sins and become better people. In doing so, they grew closer to God.
Today, of course, we no longer have the Tabernacle or the Temple. The sages teach that, instead, we have our homes. In fact, the home is called “the miniature Temple” because it is within our homes that we can replicate the service that was done in the Temple.
What does this mean? Just as the table in the Temple and Tabernacle could never be empty of bread, so, too, our tables may never be empty of food for those in need. In the Jewish tradition, it is through the generosity provided at our tables that we find forgiveness for our sins. Just as the Temple was a place of inspiration, strength, and worship, we are to create homes that comfort and inspire others.
How can we make our homes a House of God? Can we open up our homes and our hearts to the lonely and needy? Can we provide sustenance to the hungry and poor? It is up to us to serve God in any way that we can so that our homes will become holy and His presence will dwell among us.