Our Sacred Tables
Yael Eckstein | February 18, 2021
“Make a table of acacia wood—two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high.” — Exodus 25:23
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Terumah, which means “contributions,” from Exodus 25:1–27:19.
In our home, Friday nights are reserved for intimate Shabbat meals with just our family. However, at our Shabbat meals on Saturday, we love to host many guests at our table, some friends and some complete strangers. Having guests brings us tremendous joy and providing them with a nourishing meal brings holiness into our home.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the holy items created for serving God in the Tabernacle and then later in the Temple. Among those items was the altar on which sacrifices were offered in order to achieve atonement for sins. As the Temple has been gone for thousands of years, we now attain atonement through prayer and repentance instead. However, according to the Jewish sages there is another option. They teach: “As long as the Temple stood, the altar atoned for Israel, but now a man’s table atones for him.”
Our Tables Are Sacred
This idea is based on a verse from the Book of Ezekiel where the prophet beholds a vision of the Third Temple. Describing his vision, Ezekiel says, “There was a wooden altar three cubits high…The man said to me, ‘This is the table that is before the LORD’” (41:22). What starts out as the altar in the vision becomes the table by the end of the verse. Today, our family tables are the altars of ancient times, and our homes are the sanctuaries in which we serve God and receive His blessings.
Specifically, we draw down four types of blessings from using our tables in service of God. Scripture specifies that the table in the Tabernacle had to be constructed out of acacia wood, in Hebrew, shittim. The word shittim is an acronym for four words: Shalom (peace), Yeshuah (salvation), Tovah (goodness), and Mechilah (forgiveness). When we give to others by providing food at our tables, we receive so much more in return.
Whether we serve a simple cup of tea to one person or we serve an entire meal to dozens of people, our tables are sacred. They are a powerful vehicle through which we can spread God’s light and receive His blessings.
If you are unable to share food at your own table — because of health concerns or other reasons — consider “extending your table” by providing food to the hungry through a charitable organization such as The Fellowship.