In recent months, our homes have become gyms, schools, offices, restaurants, summer camps, movie theaters and more. With Rosh Hashanah just days away, we’re invited to transform a small piece of our homes into a sacred space. HighHolidays@Home, a brand-new website from the creators of Haggadot.com, has a collection of rituals you can incorporate into your High Holiday season—all from the comfort of your home.
Spontaneously-built spiritual sanctuaries, also known as altars, have been part of Jewish life since Noah arrived on dry land. Many Jewish homes include a mizrach to indicate the eastern wall and help us know where to direct our bodies. Whatever you call it, this is a physical space for us to focus your prayers and can be made of any materials. Don’t be afraid to improvise. It’s what your ancestors would have done!
Step 1: Find a flat surface in your home
Bookshelves, dining room tables and portable TV trays work great. If you have family members who will use the altar with you, make sure there’s enough space for everyone to gather. Use multiple surfaces if different family members need the altar at a different height. And if you have pets, choose a surface and location they won’t easily knock over.
Step 2: Place a cloth on the surface
Just like setting a table, putting a cloth on your sacred space makes it special. White is a color often used during the High Holidays, and blue appears throughout Jewish tradition. You can also choose something in a fall palette as the seasons change outside. Prefer patterns? Afraid of getting white dirty? Get creative; it’s your space.
Step 3: Make the space sacred
During Havdalah, we say a prayer separating the holiness of Shabbat from the ordinariness of the rest of the week. You can say this prayer standing in front of the altar as a way of making it special and distinct from the rest of your house.
Baruch atah Adonai, hamavdil bayn kodesh lechol.
Blessed are You, God, who separates between the holy and the ordinary.
Step 4: Add customized objects to your sacred space
There are many ways to personalize this space and have it reflect your wishes and intentions for the New Year. You can include family heirlooms and trinkets, or photos of your loved ones who you want to invite to your holiday celebrations. Objects from nature, like feathers, leaves, fragrant herbs, woods and spices are a wonderful way to bring all your senses into the space. Favorite books and Jewish ritual items like a shofar and kiddush cup can help the space feel spiritual, or you can write your intentions on slips of paper that you place in a jar.
If you’re creating your sacred space to align with a Rosh Hashanah seder, you can include a plate of symbolic foods like apples, honey, beets, pomegranates, dates, greens and carrots. HighHolidays@Home offers easy-to-use booklets to guide you through a simple Rosh Hashanah seder and a seder plus Tashlich. And remember, this space doesn’t have to be static—you can change the items throughout the holiday season.
Step 5: Make visiting your space a ritual
You have the power to create spiritual experiences that are authentic and meaningful to you. By visiting this space with intention, giving it your full attention and coming to it with repetition, you can make this activity a ritual.
If you’re joining a prayer service online, watch it while dwelling in this space. If you’re looking for activities to do on your own or with your family, check out “Seeker Season: A Guidebook for the Curious and Courageous.” It’s full of opportunities to pray, meditate, eat, mourn, dance, make art, reflect, forgive, celebrate, heal and listen, now and into the New Year.
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