“OUR SACRED SPACES”...A Shabbat Message from Rabbi Leiken for February 19th, 2021
Our Sacred Spaces
My family and I spent the last week huddled together in a small farmhouse in upstate New York – attempting to get away during the kids’ school vacation. It was an opportunity to change locations, while still staying inside. While we did go snowshoeing and took out from various restaurants; we spent the majority of the week crowded inside of a house built to protect us from winter and of course, from COVID as well.
We found the home that we stayed in on Airbnb; and were instantly taken with the detailed care that was put into its renovation. Originally built in 1790, the home has new floors and ceilings, but still has wooden beams that are over two hundred years old. It is surrounded by farmland and old homes dating from the 18th century. Waking up in the house each day was energizing and peaceful. The feel of the home helped all of us to take a deep breath from what has been a challenging year.
Over the course of the week, I came to think about the physical spaces we create for ourselves and the ways in which they affect us. This year especially, we have all become better aware of the ways in which the spaces we inhabit play a role in our daily lives. The rooms we have spent so much time in this year have become like additional members of our families.
In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the mishkan – a physical structure created by the Israelites to house the tablets that Moses has brought down from Sinai. We learn that the Israelites are to build it so that God can dwell amongst them.
We read a detailed description of the design of the mishkan, with specific dimensions, particular materials that cover the walls and exact lengths of the poles that hold these materials up. The details seem almost excessive—and yet, the portion is dedicated to providing them.
Human beings are spatial creatures that desire to be oriented to the world through physical structures. We create our homes, our sanctuaries and even our cemeteries as landmarks for ideas and thoughts which cannot be physically contained. Our architecture is aimed at capturing what is often beyond our reach.
Our tradition recognizes this and offers us the elaborate dimensions of the mishkan as a way to orient us towards God – to help us to feel God’s presence in a physical world where God cannot be contained.
I pray for a future in which we can all be together in such spaces...