This week's sidrah tells us that in times of war there are certain people who are exempt from military service, though they still have to contribute to the war effort with some form of national service. Among those people is someone who has built a new home but not yet inaugurated it.
Describing the first use of a house as an inauguration is a very significant use of language. The Torah could have made reference to a person who hasn't yet lived in his new house or hasn't yet moved into his new home. But instead it uses the Hebrew word chanacho with the root letters chet-nun-kaf and related to the word Chanucah, which means dedication.
This indicates that a house or a home must be more than just a utility. The 19th-century commentator Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch points out that the use of this word shows us that a home must be elevated from its purely functional purpose to a higher moral and spiritual plane.
Most people want their homes to be pleasant environments that will be comfortable and easy to live in. They spend money and effort ensuring that the facilities, utilities and furnishings are the best that they can afford. The sages of the Talmud recognised this phenomenon and said that a nice home with nice furnishings are among the things that enhance a person's emotional wellbeing (Berachot 57b).
But it is equally important to ensure that the homes that we build are dedicated to something more than just material comfort and convenience.
A home which has been dedicated, in the sense of the word chanacho as it appears in this week's sidrah, is one where Torah learning, mitzvah observance and kindness to others, combined with an aspiration for spiritual growth, are all high on the agenda of those who inhabit that home.