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Yeshua Explored

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todayAugust 16, 2021 10

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Where there’s a home, there are people. Of course, people don’t always get along with each other, least of all families, but in the home of the religious Jew there is a standard set, shalom bayit, a peaceful home, that is worth striving for. So shalom bayit is important, particularly as the Jewish home is such a hub for the family and community. Its truest expression is defined by the core of every family, that sacred covenant between two people known as marriage. To achieve shalom bayit one needs to achieve domestic bliss, so you’ve got to get your relationship right with your spouse first. Although the marriage covenant is the starting point, the natural consequence is the building up of a family. The Jewish family unit has been the bedrock of their culture and a key factor to the incredible survival of the Jewish people. While mayhem ruled around and about, this God-ordained unit ticked away doing its stuff, feeding, nurturing and educating the next generation, as we have already seen.

As you enter a religious Jewish home the first thing you notice is the small object affixed to the door post. This is the mezuzah, a box containing a scroll. On the scroll are the following verses from the Bible.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

This defines everything. It is the Shema, the most revered Jewish prayer. It declares the centrality of God and His commandments in this home and the necessity of passing on these beliefs to the children of the household. We saw this earlier when we considered the dining table.

The key concept with mispocha is that it is not the nuclear family of 2.4 children that we have been brought up with, but the extended family that includes grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, where the cooking pot is in permanent use, where the atmosphere jangles with human voices, cries, prayers and laughter, where caring and sharing crosses the generations. This has become an utterly alien concept to most of us these days. We strive for our own space, we crave personal expression. Community has been replaced by individuality as we disengage our lives from people and replace them with stuff, such as consumer electronics, furniture and objets d’art. Stuff doesn’t answer back, stuff doesn’t have demands, stuff doesn’t need looking after.

But stuff doesn’t look after you when you’re poorly, stuff doesn’t go that extra mile for you, stuff doesn’t love you. Mishpocha ensures that the wisdom and stories of your grandparents are not lost, mishpocha celebrates family occasions as extended times of joy and sharing, mishpocha provides an endless supply of babysitters, household operatives and shoulders to cry on. Mishpocha means you never need to be lonely, though it could also potentially be stifling and claustrophobic. Mishpocha, though, does require a big house.

Mishpocha is most accurately defined as ‘the entire family network of relatives by blood or marriage (and sometimes close friends)’, so in its widest definition it is talking about a small community, united either by blood or friendship, or in a Christian sense, by conviction (or, in fact, all three). Church families ought to be mishpocha, but with that added divine ingredient that ensures relationships are vertical as well as horizontal.

There may be a lot of rethinking needed here for some of us?

This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp

Is your home where your heart is? 

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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