Sacred Space, sacred thoughts

Tampa Bay Cantors (BACA) concert at CBI
We find ourselves at the end of Exodus, reading and thinking about sacred space. What do we need to pray to Gd? Ultimately, all we need is to be out of the bathroom, but in our quest for hidur mitzvah, to beautify and make holier our sacred spaces, we tend to have more spacious spaces.
Photo from World Wide Wrap 2019

The design of synagogues has changed over time, with different philosophies. We have emulated the designs of our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters. We have built vast cathedrals that were supposed to awe us into submission to Gd’s Will. We have built intimate and simple spaces so that we would have no distraction from the world around us. Windows and natural light have been required so that we would remember the natural world. Stained glass has been popular to remind us of the spiritual and the beauty of Gd’s creations.

The architecture of prayer space has changed over the generations. We have sat in the round and in auditorium style. We have faced one another or looked only towards Jerusalem. We have sat men and women together or apart. With physical barriers between and without. We have demanded dark colors and light, impressive spaces and simple.

No matter the choices we have made, the focus in all of them was how to facilitate prayer. Will we be more prayerful if we are in vast, cavernous spaces, or squeezed next to our closest friends? Will we reach Gd if we see the faces of our brothers and sisters or wrap ourselves in our Tallitot and meditate only on the Holy One.
Photo from TBI Clearwater

Like rabbis in every generation, my questions raise more questions.

There is a reason many communities renovate every few years or decades. What inspired one generation may not inspire another. It is not a betrayal of those earlier designers. Trends change and how we want our physical spaces to help us pray ALSO change.

Ultimately, what matters more than any space is what is within it. Our synagogues should not simply be beautiful spaces, but they should be prayerful spaces. They should inspire us--yet some of the ugliest spaces can be filled with prayer and the most beautiful can be devoid of it. As we create spaces that reflect our values, let us be sure that we work to use our values in our daily lives. Let us frame our days with fellowship and prayer. Join us for regular minyanim and on Shabbat and Festivals. Dance with us. Sing with us. Pray with us. See you soon! 
Photo from Havdalah in Pajamas (December at CBI)

These thoughts inspired by: