Of course, what really makes a Jewish home a sacred place is more than special objects. Real holiness, in Judaism, is not conveyed by holy relics. Jewish tradition has always been a bit shy about the idea that a physical object can be holy. That would smack as a bit too idolatrous. The closest we come to declaring an object holy, perhaps, is a Torah scroll or the written name of God. Even then, the tradition acknowledges that such objects gain their holy status only from the intention of the people who create and use them, not because of an intrinsic closeness to God.
The holiness of a Jewish home really comes from the relationships and behaviors within the home. When couples treat each other with loving dignity and care, there is holiness in the home. When parents spend time with their children to teach them the essential values of compassion, integrity, justice, humility and reverence, there is holiness. When visitors are treated with hospitality and open-heartedness, then the home becomes a holy place in a way that is more meaningful than any mezuzah could convey.
This week's Torah portion, Metzora, deals with the strange phenomenon of a house that has contracted a disease. Many commentators puzzle over the possibility that a house could have tzara'at, the skin ailment that is usually (but wrongly) translated as leprosy.
One commentator, Rabbi Yehudah Lieb Alter of Ger (known as the Sefat Emet), says that the idea that a Jewish home could contract the disease is an indication of just how holy a Jewish home can be. Tzara'at is understood in Jewish tradition as a disease of the soul; it is a physical manifestation of a moral or spiritual brokenness. Rabbi Lieb says that "Israel’s holiness is so great that they can also draw sanctity and purity into their homes." How else could a home contract a disease that afflicts holiness?
This week, as we prepare for the holiday of Pesach, our attention is drawn to the holiness of our physical homes as it is at no other time of the year. We begin the process of removing chametz (leavening) from our home to purify it for the coming holiday. There is a tendency to become a little obsessive about removing every crumb from every corner of the house. (I speak from personal experience). I want to suggest, though, that the obsession with the physical aspect of purifying our homes should not overshadow the more important task of revealing the sanctity of our homes.
In preparation for Pesach, you may wish to think about they ways that you make your home a sacred place with respect to the relationships and behaviors within it. Take time to repair any brokenness in the ways that members of your household treat each other. Make the process of searching for leavening also a process of searching for opportunities to renew the sanctity of loving relationships. In this way, we affirm the sanctity of our homes.