Making our homes reflect our true selves
By Rabbi Levi Simon, Chabad of Greater Dayton
If you peek through the front windows of my house, the first thing you might see would be our children’s toys, our books, and large dining room table. You’d probably get a pretty good idea of what our family is like and how we spend our time.
While we’ve been “stuck” in our homes these past few months, something unexpectedly beautiful has happened. The focus on work, education, religion, and health has moved from the workplace, school, synagogue, gym, doctor’s office, and restaurant and has been brought to the home. Our homes have become the center of our universe, where most of our time is spent and most of our activities take place.
Now is a good time to rethink and redefine what our homes represent. They make a deliberate statement about ourselves. They establish and reflect our values, priorities, and attitudes. How you decorate and furnish your surroundings says, “this is who I am and what matters to me.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, established 10 Mitzvah Campaigns to empower individuals to connect to God on a personal level. One of the first was Bayit Malei Sefarim, literally, a home filled with holy books. The Rebbe asked that we purchase Torah books and conspicuously display them, specifically, starting with the basic books of Chumash (Torah), Siddur (prayer book), and Psalms.
Since our home is defined by the most important items in it, the Rebbe encouraged us to permeate our homes with the holiness of the Torah by making our holy books take center stage. Whatever you are surrounded by all day influences you more than you think. When your environment supports your goals, achieving those goals becomes radically easier.
When our most treasured possessions aren’t big-screen TVs or furniture but rather books, this reminds us and all who visit to live our lives according to the teachings and lessons of the Torah. It also gives us the opportunity to browse the bookshelves and pick up a book and study for a few minutes.
Another advantage of having many books and giving them prominence is the strong impression they make on children. Just having books around, studies have shown, leads to children’s increased reading levels and academic success. When our children or grandchildren see how we cherish and hold learning and reading so dear, that influences them and becomes part of their nature.
When we return to work, play, and study outside of our homes, we must never forget our homes are where we truly are. Let’s select and shape our physical spaces to reflect who we are — godly people. Let’s focus on making home a place to read, study, and pray each day. Let’s surround ourselves with books that inspire Jewish thought and practice, and urge us to learn and enhance our lives, one book at a time.