Using our Home to Serve G-d
Taste of Talmud
Yechezkel the Prophet writes about the Mizbaiach (Altar) which was before Hashem. He then refers to it as being the Shulchan (table). The Talmud asks: why does he refer to the Mizbaiach as an Altar and later as a table? In Tractate Chagiga, on 27a, the Talmud answers that the Prophet Yechezkel is teaching us an important lesson. By referring to the Altar as a table, he is teaching us that we have an alternate means of achieving atonement even when we do not have the Altar. He is teaching us that our own table is able to achieve atonement for us, just as the Altar did in the Temple. Now that we no longer have the altar in the Temple, for this purpose, each and every Jew is able to receive atonement through serving Hashem at his own table in his home. The question is: what could a person do at his/her table in the exile that would be equivalent to bringing sacrifices before Hashem in the HolyTemple? Rashi answers that the Talmud is referring to the great Mitzvah of feeding the poor. Tosafos says that this is referring to the great Mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim (hosting guests). The Maharsha, in his commentary on Bava Basra 60b, has another explanation. He explains that in the merit of remembering the tremendous void that exists in our life due to the loss of the Temple, each person receives a great merit, comparable to having brought an offering to Hashem upon the Altar. How does one make note of this void on a daily basis? By minimizing our epicurean delights in some small way, each of us could show that he/she is awaiting the return of the Temple to its former glory. By not over-indulging at our tables and curtailing our enjoyment in even a small way, we are sacrificing for Hashem in a microcosmic way, as we once did on the Altar. In this way, our table becomes like the Altar.
Taste of Halacha
The Talmud at the end of the third Chapter of Bava Basra, on 60b, says that when a Jew builds a new home he should leave one cubit by one cubit in his home unpainted in order to remind himself of the destruction of theTemple. The following question was posed to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Zt”l: Is it permitted to just paint an area this size with another color in a way that it would stand out? Rabbi Feinstein answered that the main point here is that the person should make note of the fact that he is in exile in some way. This does not necessarily require him to make an unsightly mark in his home. He therefore concludes that painting one spot a different color is sufficient. Although this is contrary to the opinion of the Magen Avraham and other noted Halachic Decisors, Rav Moshe cites support for his ruling from the words of the great Halachic work – The Elya Rabba. As further proof to his opinion, Rav Moshe points out an interesting Gemarah. The Gemarah says that in order to differentiate between Shabbos and the other days of the week, Talmudic Scholars had a custom to wear black clothes during the week. It is obvious that these scholars would not wear unclean clothes, as this would be contrary to the Talmudic dictum that a scholar’s clothes should always be clean. Therefore, it is clear that by just slightly changing the color of their weekday clothes, they were able to give honor and distinction to Shabbos. Here too, it would be sufficient to remind oneself of the destruction of the Temple by just changing the color without leaving an unsightly spot.
Taste of Parasha
Did you ever wonder why the Torah specifically commands us to gladden the hearts of the convert, the orphan, and the widow on Succos and Shavuos but does not mention them regarding Pesach? Rav Moshe answers that this is because taking care of those who are less fortunate is so much part and parcel of the entire Holiday of Pesach. Everyone should come to the realization that all that we have is only a gift from Hashem given to us to serve Him. This is the feeling the Jews had when they gave so willingly for the Terumah of the Mishkan in this week’s Parasha. This is the feeling that every Jew keeps alive within himself every time he gives to others from what Hashem has so graciously bestowed upon him – not only during the holidays but the entire year. This, then, could be another explanation as to why the Prophet Yechezkel equated the Altar with our table. When a person gives freely from his “table”, he demonstrates that he recognizes that Hashem is the source of everything we have.