Read an Excerpt
The Jewish home has been called a mikdash ma'at, a little sanctuary. It is an evocative image. From the moment you walk through the doorway of a sanctuary, you know you are entering a place that defies the idea that space is always neutral.
A sanctuary looks different from other places. It is defined and ornamented by ritual objects, books, and art. A sanctuary feels different from the workplace and the marketplace. In a sanctuary, the mundane criteria for success and failure fall away. What matters is not what you do but who you are.
A sanctuary is a place of safety and asylum. It is where the dispossessed go for shelter, where the hungry go for food, where the weary find rest. Sanctuaries are filled with voices, sometimes singing in unison, sometimes raised in disagreement. And sometimes, a sanctuary is as still as a garden.
Today, when many American families feature two wage-earners and a constant juggling of roles, needs, and schedules, making a home into a sanctuary seems more difficult than ever and more important. The tools for making a home into a mikdash ma'at are the mitzvot described in the following pages.
"A Little Sanctuary" elaborates the Jewish vision of the peaceful home as a place of hospitality and beauty. "Shabbat The Sabbath" is an introduction both to Judaism's core insight and to creating a personal and family day of rest. "Good Deeds" explains the Jewish view of charity and social justice, and how they can be incorporated into daily life. "The People of the Library"is divided into two sections: the first defines and explains some of the major Jewish texts, such as the Bible, Torah, Talmud, and Midrash; the second contains suggestions for building a home library. "What Jews Eat" explains the Jewish dietary laws and their contemporary relevance and practice. Finally, "Travelling Jewish" discusses the portability of the insights and practices of the Jewish home.
No sanctuary is perpetually filled with all the beauty or meaning it might contain. No home is ever fully or finally a sanctuary. But the ongoing process of making Jewish choices is what makes a home into a mikdash ma'at, a little sanctuary, an island of peace, a safe harbor, a beautiful Jewish place.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, when people live together as one.
Living a Jewish Life: Customs and Values for Today's Families. Copyright © by Anita Diamant. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.