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Jewish life revolves around two institutions: the home and the community. Each is endowed with unique meaning, and between these two–the private and public spaces–education, ritual, and everyday life takes place
Home Sweet Home
The Jewish home is where core identity of young Jews is formed. And it is formed not through abstract ideas, but through concrete experiences of the five senses. The tastes, smells, sounds, and images of Jewish life are first experienced in the home–through observance of Shabbat and festivals, living a Jewish life every day, and making the home a meaningful Jewish space. Following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., the rabbis decided the home would be the mikdash m’at–“small sanctuary”–a holy place responsible for fostering the family’s spiritual life.
The most prevalent symbol of a Jewish home is the mezuzah affixed to the upper portion of the right side of the door. The mezuzah is a small parchment scroll protected by a decorative case. The scroll contains two passages from Deuteronomy, 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, which comprise the first two sections of the Shema prayer. The case can be made of wood, metal, glass, plastic, or ceramic. Traditional Jewish law requires every room except the lavatory to have a mezuzah, though many families only put one on their main entranceway.
An important concept in Jewish life is hiddur mitzvah, the beautification or enhancement of religious practice. In that spirit, Jewish homes are filled with ornamental ritual objects such as candlesticks, kiddush cups, hannukiyot (Hanukkah candelabras), and other items. Married couples may prominently hang their ketubah (wedding contract), which often is decorated beautifully. In modern times, a Jewish home also often includes art by Jewish or Israeli artists.
Since learning sacred texts is a core Jewish value, the Jewish home usually contains a library, which at a minimum includes a prayerbook (for weekdays, Shabbat, and holidays) and a Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Many libraries also include other classical and modern Jewish texts of law, theology, history, and culture
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