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Who has a place in the Sanctuary

05/16/2018 05:55:53 PM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

When I have the opportunity to take new or prospective members on a tour of Temple Israel,

I always make sure to show them

The words above our Ark:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”


The words come from our Torah portion, Kedoshim.


Kadosh = something that is set apart from the ordinary world.

This is what we want our sanctuary to be. 

A sacred space.

A place that feels fundamentally different from the ordinary world.


For some this means that the sanctuary should be a place of peace and quiet. 

The world outside our walls is so noisy and stressful. 

In here, we want to be able to focus on the music and the words of our prayer book without distraction from others.


Others have a different view of what it means to have a sacred space.


This is a view I hear expressed by people who have younger children. 

In the outside world, they juggle many responsibilities and may feel that others judge them based on how their children behave.

In the sanctuary, they don’t want to be judged.

They want to feel at home.

If their kid makes some noise or wiggles – they don’t want others to shoot them disapproving looks. 


Both views have a place:

Have you ever attended an Orthodox service? 

Decorum is not given a high priority. 

In the traditional view, it is a mitzvah – commandment – to pray three times a day (if you are a man). 

To pray certain prayers, you need to have a minyan. 

So, a traditional service is seen as discharging an obligation to God –

It’s not designed to meet personal, spiritual needs.  If it does, then that’s just an added benefit.

Kids can, and do, run around freely through the service; adults schmooze throughout.  Sometimes the gabbai tries to keep order.

Reform Judaism emerged in a different context.

The founders of Reform Judaism in 19th century Germany wanted services to be meaningful. 

They wanted sermons.  And they wanted them delivered in the language that everyone spoke.  

They cut removed prayers that were redundant, or that reflected a theology they didn’t uphold.

And they wanted decorum – formality and quiet – in the sanctuary, most likely influenced by their Protestant neighbors

Ask:  What do you think?  What would the ideal environment be in the service for you?  


Let’s return to the words

Written above our Ark:

“Love your neighbor as yourself” 


The Hebrew word “ahava” – love – is NOT an emotion.

Ahava is an action that shows loyalty to another.

Ahava comes into our sanctuary if we show loyalty to the needs of others – if we consider the needs of others to be on the same par as our own.

If we can do that: our sanctuary will be Kadosh -- a sacred place.  

Mon, July 6 2020 14 Tammuz 5780