Imperfect Homes, Just the Way They Should Be
I’m not creating a museum to the American Jewish family; I’m creating a place for real people to live, to eat, to learn and to grow.
I was recently studying the mishnah in Ethics of Our Fathers that says, “Let your house be a meeting place for Torah scholars…” As we discussed all the implications of this idea, I paused to reflect: Was that the kind of house I was creating?
Now that I’m in the process of moving, am I focused on what will allow me to best create a home of meaning and kindness or what will look best in the family room? Do I want to set it up so that it’s a comfortable spot for learning and conversation or so it will photograph well for Better Homes and Gardens? And when you get right down to it, why do we want houses anyway? What is the purpose of all that investment of time and energy and financial resources?
Of course we have a basic need for shelter, but many of our houses far exceed our basic needs. What is my real goal for the space? If I say it’s to host classes and fundraisers and Shabbos dinners but then I balk at the effort of cleaning my home or the fear of something getting scratched, then I’ve confused my priorities. I’m not creating a museum to the American Jewish family; I’m creating a place for real people to live, to eat, to learn and to grow – at least I hope I am. And if that means the paint job won’t last and the floor will be dirty right after I clean it (who knew it would show everything?) and it won’t grace the cover of any magazine, well so be it.
As we walk around our new home, I’m already noticing a smudge on the wall here, a scratch on the floor there, a closet that doesn’t quite shut all the way, a screen door that’s jammed by some plaster. I grit my teeth as I try to conquer my frustration but my husband says, “Good, now we don’t have to worry about keeping it perfect. Now the kids and grandkids can come run around and we can just enjoy?”
While “Speak for yourself!” is my instinctive retort, I know that he is right. It is a home, not a showpiece.
And homes are messy because real people inhabit them. Of course, if we are following the dictate of the Mishnah and hosting Torah scholars, we do want to clean up our home but we know it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not about the window treatments or the right shade of paint or the Instagram-worthy organized closet; it’s about creating an atmosphere of learning, of spirituality, an environment where it’s clear that a relationship with God takes precedence over interior design.
I’m not knocking decorating or decorators; I also hope my house will be aesthetically pleasing. I’m not immune to the desire to create an attractive space, to carefully choose the linens and the artwork and even the landscaping. But I hope I can stay focused on the real priority, on the type of home I want to create, on the type of people I want to attract, on all the good I want to do with this gift.
The opportunity to own a home is a gift not to be taken for granted. I hope my new one will be a vehicle through which I can share the Almighty’s glory with those I love. And if some of that glory is expressed through some new couches and throw cushions…