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Prepare Me a Sanctuary

08/25/2020 06:59:54 PM


Rabbi Brent Spodek

Inside is out and outside is in.

Our kitchens are now our classrooms, our basements are now our gyms and yoga studios, and our dining rooms are now our offices. 

So where should we put our synagogue?

This is not the first time the Jewish people have had to answer that question. 

Way, way back in the day, Jews worshipped at the Temple in Jerusalem. It was inconceivable that we would do anything else until the Romans desecrated and razed the Temple. Then, doing something else became imperative.  

That something else became the mikdash m’at, a miniature sanctuary at home. The table for the offerings became our Shabbat table, and the sacrificial fires became our Shabbat candles. 

So now we need to pivot again, since we cannot gather in person at BHA. Our kitchen table, however, might not offer the same “feel” as our sanctuary, so we want to offer some suggestions for creating a  mikdash m’at, a miniature sanctuary in our own homes.

  • If you can, be outside. More than any building or architecture, creation itself orients us towards our Creator. Please note that most of our services will be available on interactive platforms, like Zoom, which really require wifi to work well and also on non-interactive platforms, like YouTube, which can work over cell networks. We are doing this, in part, so you can take your phone out into the woods if you like. 

  • Say a blessing over your chosen space to set your kavannah, or intention, to mark it as your mikdash m’at. Some texts which might serve you well here are:

    • How good are your tents, O Jacob, Your sacred places, O Israel! / מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ / Numbers 24:5

    • Indeed, the very place on which you stand is holy ground / כִּ֣י הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ עוֹמֵ֣ד עָלָ֔יו אַדְמַת־קֹ֖דֶשׁ הֽוּא׃ / Exodus 3:5

    • Blessed are You Adonai, who separates between holy and ordinary / בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הַמַבְדִּיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחוֹל / Havdalah Blessing

  • Decorate the space - put a cushion or festive pillow on your chair, or cover your desk with a white tablecloth and a vase of flowers. If there are family pictures or Jewish heirlooms that are meaningful, set them out in your space.

  • If possible, move the computer space back so that you are “watching” the screen more than “manipulating” it. Consider connecting your computer to a TV screen so it feels less like a work device.

  • Try to limit or disconnect auditory distractions. You can turn off your email and text message ping sounds, and/or close your email program and other apps so you can be fully present during the service.

  • Wear clothing that makes you feel as if you are entering a spiritual space. Kipa and tallit can be useful tools to facilitate a connection to this service. 

  • Have a machzor with you. BHA uses Machzor Lev Shalem, and there are a number of ways you can get a copy.

While it is undeniably sad that we cannot gather as a community for these Days of Awe, I hope that these efforts help us all bring the spirit of the holidays into our homes. 


With blessings for meaningful holidays,

Rabbi Brent Spodek


Sat, November 28 2020 12 Kislev 5781