Our home is called a mikdash me'at and our work is like that of the Cohen Gadol. It just takes a little imagination to bring a little feeling of kedusha into our housework. When we educate our children we parallel the traditional role of the Leviim, as teachers to Am Israel and this is vitally important, but when we clean our celim, when we bake, even when we see to it that the house smells pleasant, we parallel the role of the cohanim in the Bes Hamikdash.

Even our furniture reflects the Bes Hamikdash. Take a look at a Goyish home. In the imagination of course. The furniture is almost always orientated around the television. The chairs, the sofa, the coffee table all seem subservient to the mindless box in the corner. Even the fireplace, which used to be the centre of things less than a century ago, now has only a secondary position.

The main room of a Jewish home, by contrast, is centered around the table. The table is a mizbe'ach. On Shabbos it is covered in white, like a calla, pure and beautiful. It bears the Shabbes lights in many homes, or else they are placed on a nearby shelf. These are like the menora of the Bes Hamikdash. Some prefer candles, others prefer oil. I like to use oil simply because oil was used in the holy menorah in the Bes Hamikdash. Aesthetically, oil lights are also more pleasing in my eyes. Glass bowls filled with clear green olive oil, illuminated so enchantingly by the flames. The flames themselves seem modest but steady, enduring. The light glitters and shines softly over all the silver surfaces. Together they create a vision of gentleness, peace, harmony - do you share my hana'ah in gazing at such a wondrous sight on a Lel Shabbos?

Even in the week the table is central. I personally do not like to leave anything there which does not belong. The table should not be a clearing house for items picked up all over the salon! I like the salon to be neat and pleasant for my husband when he returns from work, and that means primarily a neat and pleasant table.

The table is the first thing visitors see when they come into our house, and first impressions can be important. I value simplicity, and "rightness". What is appropriate? A jug of water or some other drink, always available there, some glasses or cups. Anyone thirsty can take without asking. Benchers should always be in clear view, including cards for "al a michiya."

It's also nice to have a permanent centrepiece such as a vase of dried grasses, or even elegant plastic or silk flowers which last forever and never drop petals or bugs on your food. I heard from Rabbi Chalkowsky that Sarah Imenu used to keep a beautiful container filled with salt in the centre of her table. This seems to exemplify beauty, simplicity and eternal value. Salt is white, again symbolizing purity. Salt preserves and was used on all the korbanos in the Bes Hamikdash. Now, as we season our food at our tables we can imagine we are the cohanim, eating our due portions of the korbanos with salt.

When we eat, We should try to remember to say even a little davar Torah, even at breakfast. I find my own quiet breakfast a good time to review a few halachos. We should have the intent that the words of Hashem will be swallowed and internalised along with the food.

We always keep a heavy duty, clear plastic cover on our table. This preserves the texture and colour of the surface, when lots of small children are around, and is easy to keep clean. From time to time I put it through the washing machine and hang it out to dry! Cloth table cloths can be spread under this and so last for many years, especially lacy Shabbos cloths.

And so- let's be conscious of the table in our houses, in our lives, in our Yiddishkeit, and see in it the mizbeach of the Bes Hamikdash, may it be speedily rebuilt in our days. Amen.

Copyright © 1999 Gila Atwood

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