Remembering the Destruction of Jerusalem
1. After the destruction of the Temple, our Sages ordained that there
should be a reminder of the destruction of Jerusalem on every joyous
occasion, as [Psalms 137:5-6] states: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem...If I
do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy" (1)
[Our sages] ruled that a Jew should not construct a home for himself with
walls that are lime-plastered ("me'suyad") and decorated ("me'tzuyar") like
palaces of the kings, nor should he lime-plaster the entire [interior of]
his house. Rather, he should plaster his house with clay ("tach be'tit")
and then lime-plaster it ("sud be'sid") (lit: white-wash it), leaving an
un-plastered space, one cubit ("amah") (2) by one cubit, [on the wall ]
opposite the doorway, as a remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem
(3). Although this practice is not commonly observed, the rationale [for
the lack of observance] has not been clearly explained.
(1) We will see different examples of this later in the chapter.
(2) Opinions among the authorities as to the exact length of an "Amah"
("cubit") range between 48 and 60cm (20 to 24 inches).
(3) There are different opinions among the authorities, as to what
plastering and painting materials and what type of wall decorations are
prohibited. According to the Mishna Berura (560:1), the present custom is
that as long as one leaves the one cubit by one cubit space without paint,
plaster, or wall paper (or whatever one is using to cover the walls) then
one may use whatever materials and wall decorations that one wishes.
Furthermore, if the walls are plastered only with clay, and not painted,
then there is no need to leave the space.