Do you have altars? Places where you collect sacred objects: piles of rocks that have called to you on a walk, inspirational pictures, or spiritually meaningful talismans? We’re used to thinking of places of worship as sacred space. Ditto meditation places in our homes or gardens. Even the inspirational images and messages we share in cyber-space, like the cloud that hovered over Sinai, can create an intangible zone of revelation. When our hearts open with love or compassion, that’s sacred space too.
The next section of Torah gives very precise instructions about the building of the mishkan, the portable ark that the Israelites will carry in the desert. In the reading it says literally, They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell among them. Always good to have a place to talk to and with HaShem on the journey, longer than anyone’s yet imagining. For mishkan imagery, remember what Indiana Jones was searching for: the ark at the center of the Holy of Holies. The making of this ark is conveyed in astonishing detail, almost a do-it-yourself kit, though without the holy contents.
When you consider your own journey, there are probably times you’d long for such a step-by-step construction manual. Times it would be grand to have a detailed guide for your process. But no matter how specific the instructions, there’s moments in any unfolding when things feel hopeless. That achingly big gap between vision and actualization. Like when you buy something without noticing three nasty letters: RTA, as in, ready to assemble. As seen in the mind’s eye, your mishkan of a desk or dresser is perfect. A symmetrical, completed thing of beauty. But when there’s a jumble of pieces spread all over the floor, and you’re holding some impossibly wrapped screws, and one tiny, little Allen wrench, it’s easy to feel exhausted and depleted.
Our spiritual and emotional journeys are like that. We’re all works in progress, gloriously beautiful one day, full of anger or tears another. Nothing’s linear and we’re all vulnerable to the unpredictable, things that happen when we move with lots of enthusiasm but without the right information, energy, and support. Creating or being in sacred space regularly won’t ensure success, but it can help you know you are not alone during the journey. That isn’t enough to solve all problems, but it might help you keep moving forward.
The good news is that the sacred is all around us, in every blade of grass and every breath of air. Watching and breathing alone won’t get the mishkan built. But it can reinforce your kavannah, your intention, to stay dedicated to your goals. Because without intention you’re just building a beautiful box. You can put all the sacred things you want into and around it. But you have to make sure it and your heart are truly holy for HaShem to enter.
Exercise: This is a great week to focus on what makes space sacred to you. Is it the people you are with, the activities you share? Holy silence or shared prayer? Sacred music, chanting, or breath? What helps you most when you’re feeling afraid or alone?