Making a House a Home
A home is more than just a building with walls, ceilings and floors. It's a place to live, learn and grow. This week's Torah portion tells us about the holy tabernacle/sanctuary - the 'home,' so to speak, that the people built for God to dwell with them as they traveled through the desert. Our homes too can be loving, happy sanctuaries, where we truly feel at home.
In our story, a couple of kids get an unexpected chance to feel at home.
Kim stomped into the living room like dark thundercloud. "Look at all this snow - again!" she said, pointing out the window, "I'm so bummed out!"
"Bummed out over a day off from school?" her younger brother, Andy, laughed.
"You bet," Kim said. "I just called every single one of my friends and there is nobody who can come out to do anything."
"No?" her brother asked.
"No!" Kim said glumly. "They're snowed in - just like us. Mom can't drive me anywhere either."
"Hey, you're right. I didn't think about that," Andy said. "That means I can't go out too."
"Bingo! That means that you, me, the whole family are in for a boring, snoring day stuck at home!"
Just then, the lights began to flicker and went out.
"Hey, what happened?" Andy asked.
"Nothing to worry about, guys," their mother said, walking out of her home office. "I just heard on the news - before the electricity went out - that they were expecting some temporary power outages because of the storm. But they should fix things soon."
"That's awful!" Kim moaned.
"It's not so bad," her mom assured her. "Meanwhile it's still light out, our heating system runs on oil so we'll be nice and warm, and we can still cook on our gas stove."
"No, I mean..." Kim said, "since I'm stuck at home, I was planning to pass the day on the computer - now I can't even do that. What in the world am I going to do all day?" The girl began to pace back and forth in the room like a caged tiger.
"My work computer's off too," their mother said. "So I guess we're all just going to enjoy a nice 'stay at home' day together."
Kim and Andy looked at her and then at each other, neither of them having any idea how a day like this could be anything to possibly 'enjoy.' But with no other choice they grudgingly followed their mother into the kitchen.
At first they were all frowns, but soon things started looking up.
"Wow, that's cool. I never knew you could make popcorn in a pot like that." Andy said, listening to the rat-a-tat of the kernels ricocheting off the pot's cover.
"The hot cocoa's almost done, too," Kim said, stirring the milk, sugar and cocoa powder like her mom showed her how to do.
"...And that's how they lived happily ever after," their mother said, flipping closed the big storybook in the warm, orangey glow of the log-lit fireplace that neither of the kids could remember ever seeing actually being used before.
"Read us another one," begged Andy, wide-eyed.
"Yeah," Kim echoed, lying on the cozy carpet next to her mom. "Then let's play another game, okay?"
"Okay," their mother smiled, reading. "Once there was a frolicky, fun-loving dolphin..." Suddenly the lights went on; the various blips and beeps of reenergized appliances chirped throughout the house like a field of crickets.
"See, the power's back on," their mother said. She turned to Kim. "You probably want to go use your computer now, right?"
"Uh ... I guess. But really I'd rather..."
"Rather go to one of your friends?" her mom nodded. "Well, I can hear the snowplows outside. Maybe I'll able to drive you somewhere soon..."
"Um, no. What I meant," Kim said, surprising even herself, "is I'd really rather stay sitting right here with you and Andy and hearing the rest of the story ... together."
Q. How did Kim feel at first about staying home?
A. She was upset and afraid she'd be bored and unhappy.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She really enjoyed spending some cozy, quiet time with her family.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Kim learned that day?
A. She'd felt that the only way to have a good time was to be on the move, going out with friends, etc. She'd dreaded being 'stuck' at home, but discovered that being home and spending time with her family had more to offer than she thought.
Q. Why do you think Kim and her family had a better time together that day than they usually did?
A. People can get so swept up in the rush of their individual daily activities, friends, work, etc. that they aren't able to focus on their home life together and can almost come to see it as a burden. The snowstorm and power outage took away a lot of other options, so the family could spend quiet, undistracted time together and found out how great it felt.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What do you think makes a 'house' a 'home'?
A. It had to do with people, and priorities. If we realize that our family is more than just people we happen to live with, but can be our closest source of support and companionship - and we make it our priority to invest in that relationship - we will likely soon see that our home and family give us something we can't get anywhere else.
Q. What practical steps can we take in this direction?
A. Scheduled 'family at home' times together make a big difference. Family meals together are great times to bond. Many use the weekly Shabbat for exactly this purpose. One or more unrushed family meals together, sharing songs and stories - minimized outside distractions, and a general 'time out' from life's hectic pace to get to know - and grow with each other, in a warm, loving way.