by: Cheryl Pedersen
What does the entry to your home look like? Is there a wreath hanging on the door? A welcome mat on the stoop? One of the first things I did last spring was paint our front door. I checked out the other neighbors’ doors which were red or yellow or brown and decided a vibrant blue was the perfect choice. Then we set about making the entryway welcoming. It’s a fairly large covered porch and so a rug went down as well as our bright blue fountain (perfect match for the door), and a rattan settee and chair with a small table suitable for setting a glass down. I hope that the front entryway signals to others that we welcome guests. In fact, I admit to sitting out there during the warmer months in hopes of catching sight of the little girls across the street or their mom so I can invite them over to visit. I watch the neighborhood dog-walkers pass by and greet them.
In the Talmud it says that there was a custom in Jerusalem that whenever a family sat down to a meal, they would tack a cloth to the door of their home. It was a sign to all strangers that it was mealtime and anyone who was hungry or needed a friend was welcome to walk in and eat with them. It’s the antithesis of “Do Not Disturb.” Instead, it’s a “Come On In” sign for all who desire to do so.
Doors can be symbolic of new opportunities. We talk about one door closing and another opening whenever things don’t work out quite the way we thought. There is always a way to another chance. There is even a children’s book put out by Habitat for Humanity International titled “Doorway to the World.”
You can identify a Jewish home by the mezuzah nailed to the doorpost in reference to the Shema portion that says “…inscribe [these instructions] on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:9).The cylinder which contains scrolls on which is written the Shema reminds the inhabitants to take G-d’s instructions for life with them as they leave and to bring them in when they arrive home. The mezuzah is typically hung slightly askew in recognition of the fact that none of us are perfect.
In Parshah Bo we have the instructions to the Israelites to get ready for their flight out of Egypt. They were to slaughter a lamb in preparation for roasting and:
"They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they are to eat it…And the blood on the houses where you are staying shall be a sign for you: when I see the blood I will pass over you, so that no plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." Exodus 12:7, 13
That seems odd. Does G-d really need a sign on the door to know who lives where? And if G-d knew who was who, was the blood then for the Malach Hamavet (Angel of Death) when he got busy in the neighborhood striking down the first born? Was painting the blood on the door like hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the Israelite doorknobs? “Skip us! We’re with Moses!” And frankly, why the door? Why not the windows or the rooftop?
We go back to what a door represents. It provides shelter and protection–else why do we lock it at night. It separates the public from the private. Inside my home I am free to be exactly who I really am. All the public facades fall away. I’m not a businessman or woman, I ‘m a spouse, a father or a mother. It’s where we can be free to be the best (or the worst) of what we have to offer.
Here’s a thought: the blood on the doorpost was not for G-d to know who to protect and who to strike down. It was for the inhabitants of the house. It was a sign that they were ready to leave Egypt. It said, “We have seen the signs and wonders G-d has sent over the past several months, we’ve suffered in bondage long enough, and we are ready to leave.” That’s what protected them, what made them truly untouchable by the Angel of Death. It was a sign that they’d had enough and were ready to follow Moses into the wilderness.
It’s all about the door. That is what provided a barrier. It could be opened only by someone on the inside. The blood was the perfect sign of the essence of life. The door marked the difference between a sacred interior and a profane world on the outside.
What are your doorways? In Deuteronomy 16 we read “You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your G-d is giving you…” (vs. 18). The literal translation for the word “settlements” is “all your gates.” The sages say that each person is a city in and of themselves. They are to guard the gates of their city. Those gates are the Gate of Vision, the Gate of Listening, the Gate of Imagining, and the Gate of Speaking. And what is a gate, but a doorway? The world may be intent upon storming your gates and bringing the profane in. We are to make sure that our gates, the doorways to the domicile of our souls, are well-guarded and well-marked not just so G-d knows who dwells there (for He surely does), but that the world knows who dwells there. We are to be the masters of our own gates. The doorkeepers to our souls.
What do you believe? What do you hold sacred in your heart? Do you know that you belong to G-d? G-d is well aware of your every thought, but how does the world know? How do YOU know? We let the world know by how we listen, speak, and put into action our visions for our lives, the imagination of our soul placed into the world. We know we are marked by life and for life because we know where to draw the line. The gatekeepers are in place. We also must remember to bring our true selves out of our homes and our true selves into our homes. We should be the same children of G-d no matter where we are.
May you consider who you are and what you bring whenever you cross your doorway. Keep the door open to welcome others in and keep it closed against the profanity of the world that you might maintain a vestige of sacredness inside. And for you, may you be exactly who you are, committed to G-d and dedicated to freedom, no matter which side of the door you are on.