The ideal Jewish home is called "a small sanctuary." It has the quality of the Temple, a dwelling for G‑d. This week's Torah reading1 describes the Sanctuary which Moses and the Jewish people were going to build. They constructed it before leaving the Sinai region and carried it with them throughout the forty years in the desert. Then they brought it into the Land of Israel. It was later replaced by the Temple built in Jerusalem.

In the command to build the Sanctuary, G‑d tells Moses "They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell in them."2

G‑d does not say "I will dwell in it," in the Sanctuary, but "in them." The Sages explain this means that G‑d dwells in the heart of each Jewish man and woman.3 Each person is sacred, and the home in which they dwell is also sacred.

The Sanctuary or Temple had three basic qualities which are potentially expressed in every Jewish home.

Firstly, it was a source of Torah knowledge: in the Holy of Holies were the Tablets with the Ten Commandments brought by Moses from Sinai. Further, when Moses completed writing the Torah Scroll, one copy of the Torah was placed in the Holy of Holies.

Second, the Temple is termed a "House of Prayer."4 It is the Gate of Heaven, for all prayers pass through it to G‑d. Throughout the generations, in whichever country they live, Jewish people face the Temple in Jerusalem when they pray. Inside the Temple, the service carried out every day expressed utter devotion to the Divine, the essence of prayer.

Third, in the Temple was a Golden Table on which were twelve loaves of bread. This expresses the fact that G‑d sends a flow of blessings into the world in order to provide every creature with its needs. This flow of blessing passes through the Temple and then radiates outwards to the world, giving food and sustenance to all.

Each of these three ideas relates in some way to the home. Let us see how.

The Jewish home today is a potential center for Torah study, where husband, wife and children regularly take the time to explore Torah teachings. Jewish books are part of the natural furniture. Indeed, many people organise an occasional Torah class or study group in their home.

What about prayer? Surely the main services are in the synagogue? This is true, but there are many prayers which are said in the home: the morning prayers, blessings before and after eating, and the Shema before going to bed. And home is the ideal place to pray for those who do not attend the synagogue, for whatever reason.

G‑d pours blessings into the Temple, from which they spread to the world. The Divine blessing which pours into the Jewish home is likewise shared, through warm hospitality and acts of goodness and kindness. The charity box in the home expresses this concept, as do all the deeds of generosity which take place there, reaching out to others as well.

Thus the Jewish home is indeed "a small Sanctuary." Like the Temple, it is a center for Torah, prayer and kindness. There, in the home as in the Temple, the Divine Presence dwells.5