Finding Your Space
Artist: Sanford Robinson Gifford
This painting captures the openness and vastness we hope to cultivate in our most meditative and prayerful moments. But, look closely at the bottom left corner and you will see a person climbing the rocks. In the midst of the grandeur of creation, we seek out private spaces. Wherever you find yourself today, whether inside or outside, where can you carve out a private space to be alone with your deepest prayers?
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We begin with a niggun, a wordless melody, grounding us and preparing us for the spiritual work ahead. The words that follow are verses from Psalm 27, traditionally read daily during the month of Elul, preceding the High Holy Days. The psalmist speaks to a universal yearning, a desire to be close to the Eternal One, to dwell in a place filled with sweetness and delight.
Mishkan HaNefesh, Yom Kippur p. 198
We know the immense power of joining together in communal prayer. But, our tradition also affirms the sacred act of personal connection. With this text, we connect with generations before us who have found deep spiritual meaning in taking time to be alone with the Holy One. Wherever your find yourself at this moment, how can you create sacred space for this private encounter?
In the depths of night, by the edge of the river, Jacob was left alone. In heartfelt longing, in the temple of God, Channah uttered her prayer alone. In the barren wilderness, in doubt and despair, Elijah found God alone. On the holiest day, in the Holy of Holies, the High Priest entered alone. We are bound to one another in myriad ways, but each soul needs time to itself. In solitude we meet the Solitary One; Silence makes space for the still small voice. For the Psalmist says: "Deep calls unto deep." From the depths of our soul, we seek what is most profound.
Excerpts from Mishkan HaNefesh: Machzor for the Days of Awe © 2015 are under the copyright protection of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and used by permission of the CCAR. All rights reserved.
Jacob awoke from his slumber and said, “Surely God is present in this place, and I did not know it!”
In awe, he exclaimed, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gateway to heaven.”
Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.
וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר אָכֵן יֵשׁ יְהוָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי׃
וַיִּירָא וַיֹּאמַר מַה־נּוֹרָא הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה אֵין זֶה כִּי אִם־בֵּית אֱלֹהִים וְזֶה שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם׃
וַיַּשְׁכֵּם יַעֲקֹב בַּבֹּקֶר וַיִּקַּח אֶת־הָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר־שָׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ מַצֵּבָה וַיִּצֹק שֶׁמֶן עַל־רֹאשָׁהּ
Jacob’s night vision of God and the angels ascending and descending from the heavens transforms a maqom, a generic place, into beit elohim, the house of God. Jacob recognizes the ever-present nature of God, and he sanctifies the encounter by anointing the now holy place with oil. A stone becomes a temple, a home becomes a sanctuary. We can find meaningful prayer space everywhere as we seek and are sought by God’s presence.