A Note From Rabbi Raina Siroty
With the current health pandemic, and restrictions on group gatherings, our kitchens have become our classroom, our basements are our yoga studios, and the dining room has become our office. Where then, is our synagogue?
The rabbis asked this same question right after the destruction of the Temple. Without a localized place of worship, how could we pray together? We are the inheritors of their answer: our home would become our “mikdash m’at,” a miniature sanctuary, a holy place. Our current challenge is to create a sacred space at home while we are in front of our computers on Zoom. What can help us create both that spiritual mindset and that spiritual refuge?
We are not able to gather in large groups in our building for the High Holy days. We will all certainly miss being in person together, with the majesty of large crowds standing close, singing in harmony all our familiar and moving tunes. But we will be “together” safely— in our own homes and/or spaced out in our sanctuary. This year, we have a unique opportunity to create a sacred space in our home— a mikdash m’at—for the High Holy days and beyond. These ten suggestions are meant to help you enhance the High Holy day experience at home, while creating a communal atmosphere for us all. Thank you to Rabbi Elyse Goldstein for this beautiful list.
1. Choose your prayer space carefully in advance by spending a few moments of individual contemplation/family discussion. Don’t wait for the last minute!
2. Once you have chosen your space, say a blessing or kavannah (“intention”) over it to mark it as your mikdash m’at.
3. What chair will you sit on? Put a cushion or festive pillow on it, or drape it with a tallit, special piece of fabric, or scarf.
4. Change where you put your computer from a work space to a contemplative space by covering the desk or table with a white tablecloth, white runner, or white placemat, and a vase of flowers.
5. Find meaningful objects to grace your space. On Rosh Hashana include holiday objects like candlesticks and kiddish cup, apples and honey. On Yom Kippur you can place cherished mementoes, family heirlooms, and photos of loved ones to surround you. If you own a shofar, put it where it’s visible.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Wear clothing that makes you feel as if you are entering a spiritual space. Kippah and tallit are welcome if they help you express a connection to this special worship.
9. Be sure you have your machzor with you, just like on past High Holy days when we gathered. As you feel its cover and edges and flip its pages, remember the times you’ve used it before—who you sat near, what moved you in the service, the first time you used it, etc. We will use Gates of Repentance this year. The prayers will not be on the screen, so having a machzor means you can participate more fully. These will be found in your Holidays Tote & Treat bags. I promise you, these are really special. Don't miss out.
We all appreciate the time and effort it takes to make your mikdash m’at a reality. Think of it as a “work in progress!” May it add joy, meaning and to your holiday, and wishing you a very warm and personal Shana Tova,
God bless you and keep you safe. I look forward to seeing you at Shabbat on Friday night at 6pm tomorrow.
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