Which Ordinary Item Is a Mini-Temple? (A Mikdash Me’at)

Shabbat is the holiest day of the week and the Jewish high holy day that happens every week. Many Jews attend synagogue services on Shabbat, but perhaps aren’t aware of the huge mitzvah (mitzvah gedolah) that occurs after services, when we sit down together as friends and strangers to share a meal at an oneg or Kiddush lunch.

That mitzvah is called hachnasat orchim — welcoming guests with food, drink and Shabbat hospitality.

Why is feeding guests such great Mitzvah? Abraham, our forefather, set the precedent, most notably by ditching a conversation with GD to provide food and beverages for approaching guests!

“Abraham’s hallmark was his open-tent policy in the middle of the desert. He invited every traveler and nomad in for a hot meal and a night’s rest. Some considered him an extremist. Once he was in the middle of a chat with G‑d when some travelers appeared in the distance. He excused himself and ran off to greet the guests with food and drink! To Abraham, hospitality was even greater than communion with G‑d! The tradition stayed in the tribe. Even in the worst of times, every Jewish community had a society to provide food and lodging for any traveler, without discrimination.”

Chasidut

Abraham’s wife, Sarah, kept a lamp in their tent burning from one Shabbat to the next, creating a beacon of hospitality in the desert for all hungry and thirsty travelers.

Juicy morsel: After the Temples were destroyed, the Jewish Sages designated the dining table a Mikdash Me’at – a mini-Temple!

The meals we share with others on Shabbat are sacred meals with a sacred purpose.

Unlike weekday meals, those eaten on Shabbat are not for physical sustenance alone but serve to fulfill the mitzvah of Sabbath JOY. These are “sacred meals,” both in their ceremonial character and in their deeper meaning; meals in which family, friends and community commune with the sanctity of the day as a unit.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Call the Shabbat a delight”— Isaiah 58:13.

We delight in the Shabbat by partaking of three meals. The table is bedecked with an elegant tablecloth, “special” dishes, and two challahs. The first two meals open with the kiddush [blessing], recited over a cup of wine.

Chasidut

“Shulchan Shel Arba (Table Of Four)” by Rabbi Bahya ben Asher, is a book devoted to mindful eating and the sacredness of shared meals in Judaism.

“Shulhan Shel Arba” reveals that meals can elevate our relationships with one another and the world around us, by cultivating our relationship with God. It develops in both imaginative and very concrete ways the famous Jewish idea that the dinner table is a “mikdash me’at” — a “mini-Temple.”

Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher/By Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus

Shabbat lunch is called Kiddush lunch, meaning Sanctified lunch. The name speaks to its status.

In the Temple there was a table for showbread. Twelve loaves were baked each week and placed on the table.

Our personal showbread tables are our festive Shabbat and holiday meals. At the holiday table, our refined spiritual service finds expression in the corporeal pleasures of eating and drinking, good conversation and camaraderie.

Yet in one sense these meals constitute the highest form of divine service. Judaism does not advocate asceticism; we are enjoined to use our physical pleasures for a higher purpose. The table is where Judaism comes to life, and this is particularly true when we invite those in need to celebrate with us.

Showbread Table

The food we eat on Shabbat is nourishment for body, mind and spirit. It’s how we turn an ordinary table into a mini-Temple and invite GD to the table to dine with us.

Eating on Shabbos [Shabbat] is entirely holy, entirely godly (kulo kodesh, kulo elokus). The dark forces of the ‘Other Side’ have no share in the Shabbos food at all.”

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

As a person with disabilities, I cannot make it to morning services anymore, but I cherish the great mitzvah of the oneg or Kiddush lunch, when we turn our dining tables into mini-Temples. My grandparents were poor, but their Shabbos tisch (table) was open to all who needed to be fed in mind, body and spirit. Ruach Shabbat (the spirit of Shabbat) happened around the tisch.

When our Sages called the dining table a mini-Temple, it turned an inanimate object into a vehicle for a holy act. What other examples can you think of in Judaism when an inanimate object is a vehicle for a holy act?

©️ 2019 All Rights Reserved / Drasha 12/07/19

5 thoughts on “Which Ordinary Item Is a Mini-Temple? (A Mikdash Me’at)

  1. Phil Sutherland

    This practice even carries over into the Jewish ritual of Mourning, or Shiva with the first meal after the funeral or Se’udat Hawra’a, the meal of condolence where neighbors and friends take it upon themselves to prepare a meal. Sadly, our society has lost a lot of its social mores where we used to get together with neighbors and friends inviting them to join us for a meal. There is nothing more warm and inviting than a family and sometimes friends sitting down to a meal together. This extends to the time when someone has lost a family member and those close to them show their care and concern by understanding those in mourning are not able to carry on their normal function during this time, and step in to show their love by providing food to help them carry on, as well as compassion for what they are experiencing. These are very important rituals for the social well being of a society. I really believe a lot of the decline of society now is directly related to the fact that people have abandoned some of the most important things that have kept us connected.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Soul Circle

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reflections and insightful comment!! I relate to it and agree with it wholeheartedly. Excellent input. 🌷

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Soul Circle

      Still sheltering in place, so very uneventful. No services, onegs or Kiddush lunches — just Zoom room, which doesn’t appeal to me much. How was yours?

      Liked by 1 person

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