We read this Shabbat about the various materials from which the ancient Israelites built a tabernacle, a portable sanctuary, in the desert. The table in the sanctuary was made of acacia wood.
Thousands of years later, Rabbi Judah the pious and his disciples had their own dining tables made out of wood in their homes. These Chassidim hosted many people for meals on these wooden tables. Some of the people they hosted were monetarily impoverished, and so the Chassidim strove to offer them a satiating and nourishing meal. Some of their guests were financially well-to-do, but they were spiritually impoverished, and so the Chassidim strove to quench their souls’ unconscious desire for Godliness, by sharing with them from the wisdom of the Torah, inspiring them to sing devotional poems, and recite blessings around the table.
At other times, the Chassidim would teach and study Torah on these tables, and sing the song of the soul to its Creator. When these spiritual giants moved on from this world to the realm of truth, their tables were cut into coffins, and they were buried in them. This is a very powerful message. We read in a Shivah house psalm 49: “A man takes nothing with him when he passes away”. The only thing that a person metaphysically carries with him is the way he touched other people’s lives and illuminated the world with G-d’s presence.
These are the sole assets that are truly enduring. By burying the Chassidim in the same wood from which their dining tables were formed, their disciples wished to express the fact that their homes and tables were veritable domiciles for the Shechinah, the divine presence. And that’s why they got to leave this world enveloped by the vehicle through which they committed countless mitzvoth and acts of loving-kindness.
May we strive to emulate their ways, such that our tables and our homes too, can become a true sanctuary and tabernacle, a dwelling place for G-d’s presence in this world.