Gear for a Jewish Home
A Jewish wedding is the beginning of the process of building a Jewish home and family. While many religions center themselves on a place of worship, Judaism views the home as the paramount place of sanctity. Registering at a Jewish bookstore or online (see Appendix D for a few websites) for Judaica for your home can be a very educational and exciting experience. Find a Jewish bookstore in your area and take some time as a couple to go there and look at the books and Judaic supplies. The experience of shaping your home into an inspiring Jewish space will help you to focus on a shared Jewish life path together.
A Jewish home can be recognized by the many Jewish symbols, books, and objects a Jewish family uses throughout the year. Judaism is primarily composed of mitzvoth, holy actions, and so there are many tools that can be helpful not only on the Sabbath or holidays but every day in building a Jewish home and life together.
The first moment one enters a Jewish home, a symbol of its holy space, a mezuzah, is seen right on the front doorway. A mezuzah is one of the most basic marks of a Jewish home. The Torah states “you shall write them on the doorposts of your home and on your gates,” referring to the words of Judaism's most holy and ancient prayer, the shema. The mezuzah, which many Jews affix to every doorway in their house, is a rolled-up piece of parchment upon which has been handwritten the words of the shemah by a special scribe called a sofer. Since Jewish law states that each doorway should have a mezuzah, the average home may need twenty or so mezuzahs. Registering for the parchment scrolls and decorative covers can be a great way to give people the option of buying you a Jewish gift that you will use and look at several times a day, every day.
If you are not careful to register for your mizuzot locally or online with a trusted mezuzah source you can easily end up with mezuzahs that are not kosher because they have not been properly written and prepared. There are many mizuzot on the market masquerading as kosher for which you can pay a high price but which are only machine copies or have nothing at all in their cases.
The parchment mezuzah scroll should have a decorative box to hold it and affix it to the doorpost. While the outer box is only a cover and the true mezuzah is what is written inside the decorative box, its cover is important in protecting and honoring the mezuzah itself. You can spend a little on a basic Lucite case or many hundreds of dollars on one of metal or clay handcrafted by an artist. Many people choose a more expensive mezuzah cover for their front door and less expensive covers for inside doors. There are also many mezuzah covers in the middle price range that are reasonable but beautiful.
A Tzedakah (Charity) Box
No Jewish home is complete without a charity box (sometimes called a tzedakah box in Hebrew or pushka in Yiddish). Tzedakah, giving charity, whether to the needy, to a community institution, or to Israel, is one of the foundational aspects of a Jewish home. From a young age many Jewish children are trained to put a few coins each week before the Sabbath in a charity box, a practice that teaches the basic Jewish tradition of giving to those in need.
You can register for tzedakah boxes in many different versions and designs. Some are basic, just a tin box or can with a slot in the top for coins. Others are very elaborately decorated or made by artists out of clay or metal. They serve not only as a repository for charitable giving but as an objet d'art, beautifying your home.
From the decorative to the abstract, a growing world of Jewish artwork has emerged on the scene over the past few decades. Having Jewish art on your walls makes the statement that your home is a Jewish one, and it gives those who dwell in the home a Jewish feeling of beauty. The Talmud says that a beautiful (though not ostentatious) Jewish home serves to widen our vision and put the mind at ease. Jewish art today runs the gamut from inexpensive crafts, challah (Shabbat bread) covers, and wall hangings to very expensive one-of-a-kind pieces that can be purchased from galleries. Choosing inspiring Jewish art for your registry will bring some Jewish light into the everyday workings of your household.
Jewish Books for Your Registry
It is no coincidence that the Jewish people are sometimes referred to as “People of the Book.” Judaism is a long-lasting and deep tradition so there are many Jewish books in English and other languages about every aspect of Jewish practice, Jewish thought, and Jewish life.
No Jewish home is complete without a Jewish Bible. One choice is the Chumash, the Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy). Another is the Tanach, a book containing the Five Books of Moses, the books of the Jewish prophets, and additional ancient holy writings such as the Book of Psalms by King David and the Megilah, the Book of Esther, which is read on the holiday of Purim.
Since prayer is such an important part of Jewish life and tradition, most Jewish homes also have a prayer book, a siddur. Many versions of both the Bible and the prayer book are available today in both Hebrew and English, and you can register for them at any Jewish bookstore either in person or online.
Traditionally time is taken for Jewish prayer three times a day — morning, afternoon, and night — thus feeding the soul as we feed our bodies. Many Jews pray in community in a synagogue, but prayer can also be said in the home. Therefore, having a prayer book and a Bible containing the psalms that are often prayed at any time is essential.
As you peruse the Jewish bookstore to register, you will no doubt come across many books about Jewish traditions, Jewish history, Jewish mysticism, Jewish stories, children's books, and ancient Jewish texts with modern English translations. Pick a few that appeal to you to keep on your bookshelf. A book that covers the Jewish lifecycle or Jewish Sabbath and holidays throughout the year will come in very handy as you celebrate the holidays in your new home together and begin having children of your own. Reading about the holidays and their significance can make those celebrations, especially in your first year of building a Jewish home together, that much more meaningful. See Appendix D for some suggestions of basic books about these topics.