26th Elul

Elul 26th   Friday September 3rd

בְּכָל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אַזְכִּיר אֶת-שְׁמִי, אָבוֹא אֵלֶיךָ וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ.
In every place where My name is mentioned, I will come to you and will bless you.

“In ancient times there were holy places.The land of Israel was holy.Holier still was Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the holiest site was the Temple.And within the temple was a place supremely sacred: the holy of holies. Then there’s holy time. There are festivals.Holier still is Shabbat.And holier than that is Shabbat Shabbaton, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, Yom Kippur. The day of atonement. And there are holy people. Israel is called goi kadosh, a holy nation.” Mishnah Kelim 1:6

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Judaism had to face the question – there is still holy time and still holy people, but where are the holy places?

The answer comes from Ezekiel (11:16) who, speaking of forcible expulsion and dispersion from the Land of Israel, offers God’s promise:

וָאֱהִי לָהֶם לְמִקְדָּשׁ מְעַט, בָּאֲרָצוֹת אֲשֶׁר-בָּאוּ שָׁם  
And I will be for them a mikdash me ‘at (a small sanctuary) in the lands where they go to

Wherever we are, we create mini sanctuaries for ourselves. According to the Talmud (Megilah 29a), God will dwell in the holy spaces we create, because they are in place of the Temple: mik’d’shei me’at.  These holy spaces are traditionally study halls, synagogues, and of course our homes. Each of us makes for ourselves a mikdash me ‘at, we can feel safe and be ourselves “at home;  and the holiness comes when we intentionally create the space for it.  Be it lighting shabbat candles or making Havdalah, considering the ethics of the food we cook and consume, having a “Jewish kitchen”, studying Torah, praying…..

This is the second year many of us will be participating in services at a distance from our communities, sitting in our homes in rooms that are not purposefully designed to facilitate prayer. It may be helpful to think about how to make our prayer space more intentionally holy, how to transform the tables and spaces we work from and sit in, so that we are more able to feel ourselves both in the divine presence and also in the company of our community.

Firstly – find a space that is not your usual workspace if possible. Or if it is your workspace move things around a little, clear the desk, put away files.  Maybe put a meaningful tsatske or flowers on the table too.  Place your candlesticks and kiddush cup in your eyeline. On Rosh Hashanah put some honey and apple there, on kippur if you have a shofar, put it out too.  Get your prayerbooks ready and maybe also some good meditative reading (suggested list below)

Put a different cloth over the desk/table, and make your chair different too – you can drape it with some fabric like a scarf.  Then say a blessing over the space to designate it you mikdash me’at  (some suggested blessings are at the end of this post)

Move your computer screen as far away from you as you can, or attach your computer to the TV so that you are not tempted to play with the keyboard etc, and can instead immerse in the experience on screen. Turn off all other programmes and notifications that might pop up on screen while you are participating in the service.

You may also find that if you have a wall hanging on a Jewish theme, or a mizrach, it would help to make the space feel more “Jewish”. You can often download artwork or mizrachim or photos of Jewish interest from the net.

Then it is time to think about yourself. Just as you would if you are attending physical synagogue, consider what you will wear to be festive yet comfortable. Get your tallit and kippah ready and available to wear.

Verses and blessings to help create your sacred space/mikdash m’at:

  מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
How good are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwelling places, O Israel!  (Numbers 24:5)
  מַה-נּוֹרָא, הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה:  אֵין זֶה, כִּי אִם-בֵּית אֱלֹהִים, וְזֶה, שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם
“How awesome is this place, this is the none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. (Gen 28:17)
  כִּ֣י הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ עוֹמֵ֣ד עָלָ֔יו אַדְמַת־קֹ֖דֶשׁ הֽוּא׃
The place which you are standing on is holy ground (Exodus 3:5)
בְּכָל־הַמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אַזְכִּ֣יר אֶת־שְׁמִ֔י אָב֥וֹא אֵלֶ֖יךָ וּבֵרַכְתִּֽיךָ
In every place where My name is mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.  (Exodus 20:21)
וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם
Exodus 25:8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, הַמַבְדִּיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחוֹל   Blessed are you God who separates between the holy and the ordinary. (Havdalah blessing)  
Blessing for the Household:    

בְּזֶה הַשַּׁעַר לֹא יָבוֹא צַעַר בְּזֹאת הַדִּירָה לֹא תָבוֹא צָרָה בְּזֹאת הַדֶּלֶת לֺא תָבוֹא בֶּהָלָה בְּזֹאת הַמַּחְלָקָה לֺא תָבוֹא מַחְלוֺקֶת. בְּזֶה הַמָּקוֺם תְּהִי בְרָכָה וְשָׁלוֺם Through this gate let no sorrow enter Through this house let no trouble come Through this door let nothing frightening come In this area let there be no quarrelling or conflict In this place let there be blessing and peace.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s