Before the Holidays: Creating Sacred Space At Home
Jewish tradition teaches that each home is a mikdash me’at, a small sanctuary to hold and support spiritual life. Some teach that our dining table is akin to the altar, miz’bay’ach, on which holy offerings would be given in Temple times. This year challenges us to explore and practice this concept more intently than ever before. The same room where we sort our socks may be the space in which we’ll be saying the Amidah (central standing prayer) — what an opportunity to sanctify the ordinary, and bring that which may feel remote right into our personal space.
For yourselves and for all those in your household, take some time to consider your space. We don’t usually think of our computer screens as portals to sacred community, but, this year, they will be. What else can you do to create spiritual sanctuary in the space you’ll use for our new year gatherings? You could bring photos of loved ones into that space, or personal items that highlight your personal connection with spiritual practice. Nurture a potted plant there, or bring fresh beautiful things in from your yard, to remind you of the gifts of creation. Put up your own, or a child’s, art. And parents of young children, know that your personal example of participation — just holding your machzor (prayerbook) in hand, wearing your talit and kipah, singing and reading aloud with the service — will not only nourish you, but will send a positive and enduring message to the young eyes watching you.
Likewise, how about what you wear? Ever since the Mishnah (2nd century CE), we have a tradition to wear something new for Rosh HaShana and for Pesach. This year we can consider this old custom afresh. Some of us, lucky enough to work from home through this pandemic, have joked about going to work each day in our pajamas. We’re also aware how our ‘costume’ can in fact shift our internal experience. Without emphasizing fashion or consumerism, perhaps we can elevate our own and our community’s experience together, even in this more superficial way. If you can, try putting away the sweatpants, and wearing something that helps you enter your own holiday space (and if the only way to get your kids to ‘attend’ is by keeping the sweatpants, then don’t sweat it)….