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Yeshua Explored

Mishpocha

todayAugust 2, 2021 11

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There’s an interesting definition of mishpocha in the urban dictionary on the web; an entire family that is very lucky because of their home. It is right to zero in on the home environment, but luck? Luck doesn’t come into it, it is very much a God-thing, but, for the Jews, it was bought at a price. The next few paragraphs are adapted from a more extensive treatment in How the Church Lost the Way.

Jewish life through the ages has been bittersweet. The bitterness has been from without, the sweetness from within. Their communities have always lived in a precarious state, never accepted by the Christian world that surrounded them. Yet once the outside world had been shut out, life for ordinary Jews within their own communities had been a million times more meaningful, wholesome and joyful than that of their Christian neighbours. How ironic was that?

While the medieval Christian was living in poverty, ignorance and subservience, kept in place by the promises of the “next world”, what of his Jewish neighbour? Let us consider the home. The Jewish home was always intended as a holy place. The Tabernacle in the desert and the Temple in Jerusalem in Biblical times were holy places. They were known as a miqdash, meaning “sanctuary”, a place set apart for worship of God. When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, the rabbis declared that every Jewish home should become a holy place, referring to them as a miqdash me’at, a “small sanctuary”. The home was to be a place for worshipping God, a holy place. Tradition tells us that, when the Temple was destroyed, the shekinah, God’s Glory, didn’t settle in the synagogues, where you would have expected it to, but made its home in every Jewish home. God was truly identifying with the people where they lived. Isn’t this a profound yet wonderful thought? While the Christians at that time trapped God in cold, busy, glitzy cathedrals and churches, as the exclusive property of the clergy, with visiting rights granted to the hoi polloi every Sunday, in Jewish tradition God was present in the place where they slept, ate and gathered together as families.

Whereas in Christian tradition, the focus for activities is the church building, for the Jew it is the family home. Our home is to be a “house of prayer” for the worship of God. It is to be a “house of study”, for the learning of God’s word. It is also to be a “house of assembly”, a place where people are welcomed. Added to that it is also to be a “house of eating and drinking”, a “house of sleeping”, a “house of making love” and so on. Try doing that lot in church, see how far that gets you!

Most Christians travel to church every Sunday and watch as the priest / minister / pastor / vicar conducts various spiritual rituals on their behalf, from administering Holy Communion to the hymn/prayer sandwich, to the thirty minute sermon. Religious Jews, by contrast, are told to “know God in all your ways”, which involves every aspect of their lives. Think about religious occasions. Where do Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter? They go to church, at least for the “religious” aspects, the rituals and the liturgy. Where do Jews typically celebrate their religious occasions? In their home. For example, for Jews since Biblical times, Passover is a tightly structured occasion that is firmly anchored in the home environment, from the hunt for chametz (leavened bread), which requires a complete cleaning of the home prior to the festival, to the welcoming of strangers to partake of the meal with the family. In the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot, temporary shelters are built adjoining the home, where at least one meal is eaten and some (in hotter climes than ours) even attempt to sleep in them.

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

There’s no place like home

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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