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The Sanctuary of the Home

March 9, 2017

Where have we seen that our sages described female, Jewish High Priestesses?

In regards to the matriarchs Sarah and Rebecca (Genesis 24:67):

Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. Isaac was comforted for [the loss of] his mother.

To which Rashi brings the  paraphrased words of the Midrash (Genesis Rabba 60:16):

 I.e., she became the likeness of Sarah his mother, for as long as Sarah was alive, a candle burned from one Sabbath eve to the next, a blessing was found in the dough, and a cloud was attached to the tent. When she died, these things ceased, and when Rebecca arrived, they resumed.

Rashi omits the aspect that the doors of the tent were also open to all, i.e., that all who were needy were welcome. (It seems to say that when the tent of the fathers lacked a matron, Abraham and Isaac were unable to practice the full extent of their legendary hospitality.} The miracles that took place in Sarah’s tent are reminiscent of those that took place in the Temple: the western lamp of the menorah burned constantly, the shewbread was sufficient to satiate all the priests, the Temple served as a house of prayer for all peoples, and the cloud of God’s Glory stayed over the Temple.

We can learn a number of lessons from this.

On the histocial-theological level, we see that the house of the fathers served in the capacity that the sanctuaries would later serve, i.e., as the universal center of organized prayer, pilgrimage, sacrifice, and divine revelation. This explains why it was also Abraham’s practice to erect altars “and call in the Name of the L-rd” (i.e., pray and preach) wherever he would encamp.

On the moral level, we see that the Jewish home, which is the continuing legacy of that of Abraham and Sarah, is meant to be a sanctuary. Rabbi Avigdor Miller wrote much about this aspect, and it is sufficient to say that of course one should not bring any detestable or impure object into the home. This helps us understand another aspect of marriage (Sota 17a):

Rabbi Akiva expounded: When a husband and wife are worthy, the Divine Presence abides with them; when they are not worthy fire consumes them.

In light of what we saw earlier, we see that the Divine Presence abides with them because they turn their home into a sanctuary, and if they misuse their relationship, it can cause destruction, like with regards to the misguided worship involving the Golden Calf. Further, just like Maimonides rules that “the High Priest is greatly revered” (Temple Appointments 5:3), a man should also treat his wife, the high priestess of the home, with exceptional respect.

 

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