Parashat Achrei Mot

A couple of months before Daniel and I got married, I met periodically with a Chabad rebbetzin to explore the laws of niddah (separation) and prepare myself for immersion in the mikvah.  As a graduate student and a generally open-minded person, I made a point of studying Jewish thought and traditions from a variety of teachers, ranging from the most secular to the most Orthodox.  I especially enjoyed my time with this rebbetzin who gave me an enlightening outlook on the role of a married couple’s bedroom.

Together we looked at this week’s Torah portion, Achrei Mot, which describes the Cohen Gadol’s (high priest) role on the “10th day of the seventh month” (Yom Kippur).  On this day of the year only, the Cohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies of the Temple to bring atonement for the community.  This small space, which holds the tablets that Moses brought down from Sinai, is reserved only for the Day of Atonement and can only be visited by the most privelaged of the priests.  Leviticus 16:33 states:

And he shall effect atonement upon the Holy of Holies, and he shall effect atonement upon the Tent of Meeting and upon the altar, and he shall effect atonement upon the Cohanim and upon all the people of the congregation.

According to Jewish thought, a home is likened to the Holy Temple and should be treated with respect and dignity; the happenings of the home should bring shalom and the relationships inside the walls should foster holiness.  The matrimonial bedroom is likened tothe Holy of Holies.  But what does this mean?

For a family with small children, this might mean that we keep our bedrooms free of toys or other belongings.  It could be the space that is the most clutter-free and comfortable in the house.  In some families, children know that they cannot just run into their parents’ room—that it is a special place and one must knock before being invited inside.  Just like in the Holy of Holies, the most important activities should take place in our bedrooms.  While marital relations are deemed holy and a necessary part of such activities, the bedroom may also be the place where we have the deepest conversations, prayer, and personal reflections.

What space in your home is most holy?  How can you continue to make that space into a sanctuary?

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