Return to Previous Page
Rabbi Jack Moline Website
Home | Profile | Works | Links
Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
October 6, 2008
© Rabbi Jack Moline

The word on which we focus today is "beitekha." The "-ekha" suffix means "your," and in this case the "your" is God.

The word itself is "bayit." (Pronunciation changes with certain suffixes and prefixes.) Bayit means "house." In Hebrew, the word carries a connotation that is not quite as clear in English. We English-speakers sometimes make the distinction between house and home, but the economy of Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew blends the two concepts. A house is where someone or something lives, and is therefore the resident's home.

It is true of people, but it is also true of things and even ideas. A place of communal gathering is called Beit Am (house of the people). A place of communal gathering for prayer is called Beit Knesset (house of gathering; synagogue). A place of learning is called Beit Midrash (house of exploration). A place to get a hot cup of java is called Beit Café (house of coffee, coffeehouse).

"Beitekha" means "your house," and since we are addressing God, it is worth considering what it means to suggest that God has a place of residence. Isn't God everywhere? Of course the answer is yes, but the implication that house also means home can help us understand the idea. It was Robert Frost who said so eloquently, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Created as we are in God's image, the place we designate as God's home is also home to our souls. God's house is the place that will always take us in.

(In this sense, it is uplifting to consider a prayer to return ritual service to the heart of God's home – that is, to restore sacrifices to the central altar in the Temple. Our prayers express a yearning for a place where God is dependably met.)

The second letter of the alef-bet was originally a pictograph of a house. A foundation, a wall and a roof form the rudiments of home. As a picture, the letter bet is always a point of departure – a place from which whatever comes next is encountered through an open door. Home is not only the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Home is also the place where, when you have to leave there, the world is at your feet.

Home | Profile | Works | Links

Comments or Questions? Email