THE VESTIBULE, THE BELL, AND THE VISITOR

January 2, 2023

I grew up over a Brooklyn storefront. My Aunt Angela’s dressmaker shop was on the ground floor. My family lived two flights up, my aunt and uncle under us.  

The building had a vestibule, which Webster defines as “a  passage, hall, or room between the outer door and the interior of a building.” My childhood home, 1196 Nostrand Avenue, had a vestibule. But you couldn't call it a hall or a room. It was too small for such big names. I don’t think three adults could stand in our vestibule at the same time. 

That’s okay, because the vestibule wasn’t for standing. You only stood there long enough to ring the doorbell so someone upstairs would push the buzzer and let you into the building. Often the person coming into the building just wanted to shout something up the stairs, like, “Mrs. Dauermann! Can Stuart come outside?” More than seventy years later, I see the vestibule, the thin curtain on the outside door, and the tiled floor. All of it is still here with me. 

I still hear the doorbell, the voices shouting, and footsteps coming, up the stairs. 

There is someone in our vestibule now, here at the entry to a new year. I hear his repeated insistent ringing. The finger on the bell is the same one that burned Ten Non-negotiables into tablets of stone way back in our family’s history. And the vestibule is not just mine. It's ours, the vestibule of the family of God. We need to let the Visitor in to shout up the stairs or to start climbing.

And if we don’t let him in, he’ll just keep ringing. But experience proves the family can’t live like that, ignoring the bell.  

I hear three of those rings in a Torah text.

5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children (D’varim/Deut. 4:5-9). 

First ring: The Holy One demands we respond to his commands in a way even pagans admire. I don’t know about you, but when I look out the window of the family of God, I don’t see many pagans looking up with admiration. 

Some of us will dismiss this concern, criticizing the pagans as only being out there on the sidewalk to throw stones at our building. But the Visitor in the vestibule says otherwise. He says the problem is with us. There’s not enough to admire. Ouch. 

The second ring reminds us to live like God is near to us whenever we call upon him. We’ve all known people who lean hard upon God in the tough places of life. They trust a God who is always near to them when they call. What about us? Do others see in us a strong confidence in God who lights our way and banishes the darkness? The Visitor insists we should. 

The third ring is the ring of constant alertness. Our Visitor in the vestibule is shouting up our stairway, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children.” 

He insists we respond to his commands with lives even pagans admire. He demands that we remember his history with us. He requires that we live every moment conscious of our attentive Companion.

Our lived-out faith in him must be admirable and impossible to ignore.

Only by doing these things will we, our children, and our children’s children keep His Presence alive in the world. 

No wonder we don’t want to let him in. He is not a convenient Visitor. 

But those bells. Those bells. They demand to be heard. 

Behold, he stands in the vestibule and rings.

Push the buzzer. 

2 comments on “THE VESTIBULE, THE BELL, AND THE VISITOR”

  1. Excellent post, ....I am reminded ....we should take Hashem seriously! We should not put our words in to His mouth and then quote them.

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