The mishkan, an elaborate portable tent, was a spiritual centre for the service of God, as well as a place where God’s presence was openly manifested. In this week’s parsha of Terumah, the Torah provides us with details of how to construct the mishkan, including minute details of the furnishings and vessels within.
From the building process of the mishkan we learn practical halacha: the 39 laws of Shabbat. It also teaches us the significance of design. When building a home the details matter, from choosing what to include in a room, deciding where to place things and deliberating over which colors to use.
Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, outlines four levels of simplification which should be undertaken: rhythm, schedules, filtering out the adult world and the physical environment. Our physical space impacts our behavior. In particular, he talks about certain behavioral tendencies being soothed or relaxed by creating calm through our surroundings.
Payne offers practical suggestions for simplifying our houses. After all, “areas of clutter around the house tend to be hot spots for difficulties with transitions and discipline. The forces of time and space naturally collide where there is too little time and too much stuff.”
Primarily he advocates decluttering, specifically our children’s toys, books and clothes. Once that is done, “you’ve cleared out space, literally and emotionally.” With fewer distractions and choices, he believes children’s focus can deepen. Soft lights and colours also aid our children to relax, use their imagination and to experience the “slow unfolding of childhood.”
We are stewards of our child’s home environment and we create the mood and set the ambiance. Calling parents “family architects,” he explains so beautifully that “we can add a little more space and grace, a little less speed and clutter to our children’s daily lives.”
So this week, as you read through the detailed planning for the mishkan, let’s be inspired to tidy or declutter, to bring more natural light into our homes, to add a cozy rug or just to put out some new family photos.