All great houses have more than an address, they have a name. We've thought a lot about a name for our newly renovated house, which we hope to move back into in a couple of weeks. In fact we were trying to find a name before it flooded. Therese liked names involving the circus. She liked Homan Circus, but her last name is still Fitzpatrick so that didn't really work. We played around with Alexander Street Circus, and Cirque du Mid-City, but none of those stuck, mostly because Therese hasn't quite reached the age yet where she can grow a full beard, and everyone knows a circus needs a bearded lady. But now at last we have settled on a name: The Mishkan.
Mishkan is a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling place," and it is one of the most common words in the Hebrew Bible, referring to God's home, the Tabernacle. I'm sort of obsessed with the Tabernacle, believing that you can learn a lot about a person, or in this case, a deity, by studying their home. I wrote my dissertation on ancient Near Eastern tents, and later turned this into an award winning book (currently #3,148,555 in sales at Amazon). And to further prove my obsession, I built a scale model of the Tabernacle, as you can see in this old picture.
I'm dressed as the High Priest of Israel wearing a costume made from a bedsheet for a Halloween party at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. I'm blowing a shofar in front of the scale model of the Tabernacle and its courtyard. If you look closely you can see a sacrificed cow on the horned altar. Good fun. The actual Tabernacle is the rectangular building towards the back of the courtyard. Here is a more detailed picture of the entire courtyard to the left, and a bird's eye view of the actual Mishkan to the right:
Once you enter the Tabernacle, you are in a long room structure with three objects: the Menorah to the left, the Table of Showbread to the right, and the altar of incense to rear. All of these objects, and the Tabernacle as a whole, are very symbolic, and meant to be a microcosm of the universe. These were superstitious people, and they believed they could help the cosmos function by creating a model of it and helping the model function. Behind the altar of incense was a screen, and behind the screen was the holiest relic in ancient Israel's cult: the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the contract between God and Israel in the form of the 2 tablets of the 10 Commandments. If you would like to read more about the Tabernacle, check out this article I authored for Religion Compass.
OK, so you could tell I was obsessed with the Tabernacle from the first picture. Well, in designing our remodeled house I had the Tabernacle in mind. I wanted a long room structure, and I wanted people who entered our front door to have their eyes taken to the back, to the Holy of Holies, which we did by creating a wall of windows.
Additionally, we have a chandelier that represents the Menorah, we will soon have a table with bread, and the oven, which is supposed to arrive tomorrow, will represent both the sacrificial altar and the altar of incense. Then in the very back room, where we'll spend most of our time, I guess God will be represented by a 50" Panasonic HD Plasma television. Or better yet, we hope that the spirit of God dwells in our Mishkan. God, and you as well, are invited to come over anytime. We'll provide the libations.