Mishnat Hashavua’: Middot 2:2

How can building design and building use reinforce religious values?

All who enter the Temple mount would enter by the right [Hulda gate], circle, and exit the left way, except for one who had suffered an incident, who would circle from the left. [People would ask this person why he was going the wrong way. He would reply:] “Because I am bereaved.” [They would say:] “May the One Who dwells in this house comfort you.” [Or he would say:] “I have been banned.” [They would say:] “May the One Who dwells in this house put in their hearts to bring you close again”—according to Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yossi said to him, “[You imply] that the [Sages] treated him unjustly!” Rather, they would say, “May the One Who dwells in this house put in your heart to heed your colleagues, and then they will bring you close again.”

Comments

The Jerusalem Temple was the great gathering place of the Jewish people for many centuries. According to a midrash, Solomon designed the gates in a way that highlighted the status of bridegrooms, who would be congratulated, and mourners, who would be consoled. This mishnah identifies another situation requiring attention—the person banned for misconduct. The very structure of the Temple and its operating procedures were thus designed for social bonding—to identify and comfort a person struck by tragedy, and to identify and correct a person who literally stepped out of line.

Questions

  1. Can you defend Rabbi Meir’s position from Rabbi Yossi’s critique?
  2. What values are reinforced by the design of your synagogue or school building?
  3. Does God dwell in our houses too or only in the Jerusalem Temple?