A huge fireplace dominated the room, in which a fire blazed round the clock. To its right were the food preparation areas. A massive oaken table, seating fourteen, indicated that the food in this home would be eaten right here, within sight of where the staff of butchers and chefs had prepared it for consumption. It was also obvious that this was the epicenter of the building, while the other rooms (sleeping alcoves, storage rooms and guest reception areas) filled secondary roles to the structure's central space.

"My design," explained the architect, "recaptures the home's initial, primal function: to shelter and nourish its inhabitants" "My design for A New Home for the New Millennium may seem revolutionary," explained the architect, "but only because we have drifted away in recent centuries from the home's initial, primal function. The kitchen moved from the core of the house to its periphery. It shrunk in size, sometimes to miniscule proportions, or it became little more than a showcase for expensive gadgetry. The dinning table devolved into an undersized 'kitchen table' and thence to a small countertop at which one perches to 'grabs a bite.' My design represents the endeavor to recapture the original purpose of the home: to shelter and nourish its inhabitants..."

A smattering of applause. Then the second architect unveiled his design.

At first glance, the second architect's model was similar in form and dimensions to the first. But closer examination revealed it to be a fundamentally different structure. The kitchen and other service areas were out in the courtyard. The building's core was an intimate room, furnished with bookshelves bearing a collection of ancient and modern volumes. It was a space for people to pursue intellectual study, listen to heart-stirring music, and engage in soul-enriching dialogue.

Is that all we are — bodies that eat?
"As you can see," the second architect began, "I have taken the very opposite approach of my esteemed colleague. Yes, the home should cater to our visceral needs; but is that all it is? Is that all we are—bodies that eat? To me, the primary function of a home is to house and facilitate our spiritual self—the self that thinks and feels, the self that gains and imparts knowledge and wisdom, the self the thrives on receiving and sharing joy..."

"G‑d desired a home in this world."1 Indeed, say the Chassidic masters, this is the purpose for which G‑d created all the worlds supernal and lowly, and the purpose of everything we do in and with our lives.

Following the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, G‑d instructed that a "model home" be built — a structure that will embody, on a highly condensed and intensified scale, His vision of a dwelling for Himself in the physical world. Thus the portable Mishkan ("Tabernacle") was built in the desert to accompany the Children of Israel in their journeys, later achieving a more permanent form in the Beit Hamikdash ("Holy Temple") in Jerusalem.

A "model home" that embodies, on a highly condensed and intensified scale, G‑d's vision of a dwelling for Himself in the physical world
The design and construction of the Tabernacle are described, in great detail, beginning in Exodus 25. The Sanctuary itself consisted of two chambers. An outer chamber, the "Holy," housed the menorah (seven branched candelabra), the "table" on which the 12 showbread were displayed, and a small altar for burning incense. The inner "Holy of Holies" contained the ark which held the Torah.2 The "courtyard" enclosing the Sanctuary contained the large Outer Altar on which the korbanot (animal and meal offerings) where offered.3

Which of these "vessels" most represented the significance of the divine dwelling? In which of these various functions did the primary objective and raison d'être of the edifice lie? Two of the great commentators and interpreters of Torah offer two contrasting perspectives on this question.

According to Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, 1135-1204), the Holy Temple is most basically defined as "a house for G‑d that is prepared for the offering of korbanot."4 According to Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1195-1270), "The main object... is realized in the ark, as G‑d says to Moses, 'I will commune with you there, speaking to you from above the ark's cover...'"5

According to the Talmud, when we are confronted with differing opinions amongst Torah sages we should appreciate that "these and these are both the words of the living G‑d."6

In the home we make for G‑d out of our lives, where does G‑d live—in the kitchen or in the library?
What is our purpose in this world—to serve G‑d with our bodies, or to serve G‑d with our souls? Which is the greater mitzvah—to eat kosher or to study Torah? Who is closer to G‑d—the honest businessman or the ascetic sage? Which is the holiest part of ourselves—our physical being or our transcendent strivings?

In the home we make for G‑d out of our lives, where does G‑d live—in the kitchen or in the library?

These and these are both the words of the living G‑d.