It’s natural to want to sit in back. Even if you’ve already taken your usual seat, your makom kavua, I hope you’ll accept my invitation to move in closer.
We have beautiful spaces in which to gather for prayer. Our Beit T’fillah, or Chapel, is small and intimate; our Beit K’nesset, or Sanctuary, though comforting with its wood paneling and colorful stained glass, is wide and expansive. The first brings us close together, by design. The second, with its large open space, seems to make it harder to sit together.
I admit that my bias is that appropriate physical proximity has greater potential to engender intimacy. When we sit close together, we have that proximity, but also there is some space between the seats. In the days of the First Temple, G–d is said to have dwelt in a space between the cherubim, the carved forms that sat on top of the Aron HaBrit, the Ark of the Covenant, in the Holy of Holies, Kodesh HaKodashim. The cherubim were close, their wings extended toward one another, as they met face to face. This teaches me that holiness is found in places of closeness and connection. The Gemara teaches us that one who fixes a place for prayer will be saved by the G–d of Abraham, and this has led many to find that a certain seat in the shul enhances their prayer experience. Yet Abraham and Sarah were the ultimate hosts, which involved drawing near, maybe even giving up one’s seat, in favor of another.
This image inspires me, when I am in the Beit K’nesset, to come off the bimah and stand with you as I lead services. I can more easily hear your voices in prayer and song, and I feel more in tune with you.
I invite you to move closer in, as well. Even if you’ve already taken your usual seat, your makom kavua, I hope you’ll accept my invitation to move in closer.
My hope is, in that smaller space between us, that we’ll create a new space for holiness between us—a sense of greater connection. Come down the aisle. Come close to the front of the room. Let’s create an intimate sacred space within the sanctuary, almost like the Holy of Holies, within the Temples of our past history. A space that is about human connection, about looking at one another, hearing each others’ voices, feeling each others’ presence more intensely… and let’s see how it feels.