Creating Our Sanctuary

Reaching into the Past to Envision the Future – Creating a Mikdash Me’at The Jewish people have had to reinvent ourselves at various moments of […]

Reaching into the Past to Envision the Future – Creating a Mikdash Me’at

The Jewish people have had to reinvent ourselves at various moments of our history. Those moments guide us as we face realities that feel overwhelming and at odds with how we are used to doing things.

A moment we turn to is following the destruction of the 1st Temple in 586 BCE.  It was an existential crisis. The way we had been in relationship with God—though sacrifices at the Temple was lost.  We not only lost our way of worship, but we lost sovereignty and the land we saw as given to us by God.  The depth of our despair is captured in famous lines of  Psalm 137: “By the waters of Babylon, we laid down and wept as we remembered Zion….How an we sing the songs of God in a strange land?”

Amidst this despair the prophet Ezekiel not only calls upon us to hold onto hope of return and restoration—but gives a new paradigm to understand what Judaism can be.  He says: “This is what the Lord, our King said: ‘Although I have sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet I have become to them a small sanctuary – mikdash me’at in the countries they have gone. (Ezekiel 11:16).  Ezekiel asks us to re-imagine what Judaism is—rather than the central sanctuary—the Temple in Jerusalem which was destroyed – we can create our own echo of that sanctuary wherever we end up.

In some ways this is a radical reinvention of Judaism.  Ezekiel pivots from a religion centered on one place where God dwells and is worshiped to a different place.  Interpretation of where mikdash me’at is vary—some interpret it as the synagogue, others say it is the home, others say it is the human heart.

All of these possibilities speak to this moment.  God can dwell anywhere and everywhere.  Our sacred task to is create that space. As we approach these unprecedented High Holidays, where we cannot gather in synagogue, the activities of synagogue—prayer, connection, social justice shift to our finding new ways of expression. We are working hard to continue to figure out the best ways to bring these activities to you in the new realities we face.  Let’s continue to work on this together.

In beautiful ways, our homes have become our mikdash me’at.  Our Shabbat tables, the time we set aside for prayer, blessings and study have all been ways we have sought to create a place where God dwells. In the coming days and months, let us work with you to personalize this opportunity.

Ezekiel’s vision opens up the possibility of God dwelling not in a physical space, but in the human heart.  The experience of being at the Temple, which opened the hearts of people who gave offerings there, now shifts to each of us as individuals.  That too requires thought and intention.  It means setting aside technology and at times ego to create a place set aside to God. If God is everywhere, God can be reached anywhere.

In the coming year, may we make this real in our lives.