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Sunday, 5 October 2014

How to Make Your Very Own Home Altar


Daf Yomi Chagigah 27

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin was once visited by a group of Korean Evangelical ministers.  At the conclusion of the synagogue tour, they turned to him, perplexed.
“Where is the altar?” they inquired.  “In order to achieve atonement for sin, does the Bible not instruct the Children of Israel to sacrifice to G-d upon an altar?”
“That was only in the Holy Temple,” was Rabbi Goldin’s response.
“So, how do you achieve atonement now?” they asked him.

The Prophet Ezekiel declared, “The Altar of wood was three amos tall and two amos wide and its corners, length, and walls were wood.   And he said to me: This is the table that is before G-d.”

The Gemara asks: Why does the prophet begin by calling it an altar and end by calling it a table?  Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish both answer: When the Holy Temple existed the Altar would atone for our man’s sins.  Now, man’s table atones for his sins.

Rashi explains:  This atonement is effected when one hosts guests at one’s table.

Your dining room is a holy place.  Your dining room table is like the Altar!  The more guests you host, the greater the atonement you achieve for your sins! 

Just make sure you are treating it with holiness.  Are you washing your hands properly before partaking of the bread?  Are you making blessings over the food?  Are you bentching – reciting Grace after Meals – every day of the week?  Is the food 100% kosher?  Are words of Torah being discussed at the dinner table?  (Tip: Life Yomi is a good daily discussion!)

In Temple times, if you sinned, you had to travel for days to reach Jerusalem and offer a sacrifice upon the Holy Altar.  Nowadays, in some ways, we have it much easier.  All you need to do is invite guests to your holy altar!