Sacred Spaces

This past week’s Torah portion, Parshat T’rumah, describes the building of the mishkan, the first central place of prayer in Jewish life. It is not one of my favorite readings, as I tend to zone out when the subject matter is instruction-based, as the bible is so often fond of being. “Take this many cubits of wood, divide them into four equal width, construct your dwelling at right angles to the sun’s path…” etc, etc.

However, I heard some commentary on this section from Rabbi Rick Jacobs connecting this portion to the overall idea of sacred spaces. Rabbi Jacobs described himself as a junky for these kinds of places, and I laughed out loud because me too! Even when I thought my spiritual journey was over, when I thought I had landed firmly in the non-believer category of the divine census form, I still found myself drawn to places of worship. There is something unspeakably special about the intentional spaces humans create for themselves when they are hoping to house the infinite.

I spent some time as a hospice volunteer, which gave me a lot of experience in hospital and nursing-home chapels. Every single one of them felt like an oasis, an oxygen-filled bubble of stillness and peace in the midst of a desperately frantic environment. They were generally nondenominational and often had a selection of well-thumbed religious texts available, as well as spaces to sit or kneel as your observance dictated.

The overall idea of sacred spaces in all their variety brought me to the concept of creating room for spirituality in my home. Not just metaphorical room, but an actual physical space that is reserved for some kind of exercise in religious feeling, in reaching out for connection.

I believe that creativity and storytelling are divine acts, and that human beings touch holiness when they use language–fiction, metaphor, poetry, allegory–to try to describe something so outside our experience. If I am going to throw myself into that endeavor, it would make sense to mindfully dedicate a space to it.

Now, what exactly that means I’m not sure. I don’t have the step-by-step directions given to the ancient Israelites concerning what to build and how. But, using that hospital-chapel-feeling as a guide, I’m looking forward to creating my own sacred space.

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