Thursday, January 12, 2012

Holy spaces holy places


19 Tevet 5772 / January 13-14, 2012

This week’s portion marks the beginning of the Book of Exodus. A number of generations after the death of Joseph, we find the Israelites enslaved in Egypt, a Pharaoh intent on keeping them in servitude, the birth of Moses, Moses striking down an Egyptian and fleeing, the episode of the burning bush, and Moses’s return to Egypt and first encounter with Pharaoh.

When Moses approaches the burning bush, he is issued the following instruction:

“Do not come closer to here, remove your shoes from your feet, for the place upon which you stand is holy ground.” – Exodus 3:5

The concept of holy ground or holy space is something that we as Jews (and as Westerners) often don’t do well.

In other cultures, many still remove their footwear before entering their place of worship.

Is one’s home a holy space?

How about one’s bedroom?

What should we be striving for?

Treating something as “holy” is really a mechanism for distinguishing.

For example, in the final blessing we make at the conclusion of Shabbat every week in havdallah, we express thanks for distinguishing between the “holy” (Shabbat) and the “mundane” (the rest of the week).

It is important that we have holy places (and times) in our lives.

Growing up, we asked guests coming to our house to remove their shoes before entering. This admittedly was partially to keep the carpets clean, yet at the same time, had the effect of making our home more “holy,” and distinguishable from the outside.

These days, many couples have televisions in their bedrooms, and bringing one’s laptop to bed seems to be the norm. However, should the bedroom be a space for entertainment and interacting online, or should it be a space distinguishable from the other rooms of the home – one where the couple has the opportunity to converse meaningfully, express their love for one another, and be intimate with one another?

As we head into Shabbat this week, take stock of the spaces and times you consider to be holy. Consider what it might look like to further distinguish between the holy and mundane in your life, and the steps you can take to get there.

Just as Moses stood on holy ground and reacted accordingly, so too may we strive to stand on holy ground in our own lives.

1 comment:

  1. I ask people to remove their shoes upon entering my apartment to minimize the city dirt in my apartment - who knew I was making a holy place for HaShem at the same time!
    Thanks Rabbi Dan