A few months ago, I was at a new friends house for Shabbas. After we lit the Shabbas candles and sat down to shmooze, I noticed that on the inside of their front door was a piece of yellow “danger” tape with the words “Chametz” written on it. When I inquired as to why they had it, she said it was just a joke, but to me, it was genius.
On Passover, chametz is the “no-good thing” we cant have. It’s the “keep away from or else.” It’s so clearly “dangerous” during this time of the year, that we want to make no mistakes of reminding ourselves – in big, bold letters – that this is not for us and to stay away.
Seeing chametz written on her door like that made me think…what if we all had “chametz,” written on our doors? What if that little piece of danger tape was there to remind us of the stark contrast between “out there” and “in here.”
In the first few moments of Shabbas, with the light of the candles illuminating the room I felt in complete understanding of the meaning of “chametz out there” and “sanctity in here.”
We know, that our homes are meant to be sanctuaries. They are supposed to be little havens of holiness away from everything else. In any home, this should be true, and in a Jewish home, all the more so.
According to the Torah, our home is a sanctuary. It’s a place of peace, harmony, and connectedness. In our homes, we illuminate our children with stories of special people and beautiful songs. When our spouses come home, we speak to them with kindness and respect. We live like the daughters and sons of a king. While out there we coexist, but while in here, we create.
There was a time where the message, “chametz is out there, but holiness is in here,” stood out in complete vividness to me. It was actually the first time I was ever in a religious Jewish home. I was in college in Indiana, on a campus of fraternities and sororities, football teams and cheerleaders. To me, this was normal life and I’d gotten used to it. But one day I was invited to the Rabbi’s house. It was a Thursday night and I went with a friend to speak with him about Birthright trips.
I’ll never forget walking into that house. In the middle of a college campus in Indiana, right across the street from my old freshman dorm, was a home of a religious Jewish family living just as they would be anywhere else. The Rabbi invited us into his kitchen, where his wife was kneading challah dough. The smell of the challah wafted into my nose and the warmth from the oven radiated around me. They offered us hot cocoa and we settled into a window seat around their kitchen table. The house was quiet, their children asleep in the back rooms. I remember thinking how simple the house was, and yet, there was something beautiful about it.
In that moment, something in me changed. I felt like Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole. I had somehow stepped outside of one realm and into another. All around me had been nothing but college students and keg parties, or so I thought. Little did I know, there on IU’s campus, was also a home. A real home.
I had never met these people before, but to me, their home felt like my home. It was instantly the most comforting place I’d stepped onto on campus. Right outside their door, on a late Thursday night, there was partying and craziness, but inside, there was only peace.
The beauty of a Jewish home is that wherever they are in the world, among any type of people, the house is a beacon of light. A home is to be filled with love, comfort, kindness, and holiness. In a Jewish home we embrace what we believe among people who may not. We bring in messages that speak to the people we want to be and we live in accordance with that hope. In this way, we remind ourselves, there may be chametz outside, but in here there’s only light.