Making Your Home Our Sanctuary

Adapted from Creating Your Mikdash M’at (little sanctuary) by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein.

We will certainly miss being in person for our High Holy Days this year. The majesty of large crowds standing close, singing in harmony all our familiar and moving tunes. But we will be “together” safely — in our own homes and/or in small outdoor groups. This year we have a unique opportunity to create a sacred space in our home. These ten suggestions are meant to help you enhance the High Holy Day experience at home, while creating a communal atmosphere for us all.

  1. Choose your prayer space carefully in advance by spending a few moments of individual contemplation/family discussion. Don’t wait until the last minute!
  2. Once you have chosen your space, say a blessing or kavannah (“intention”) over it to mark it as your mikdash m’at. Suggestions of verses and blessings are on the next page.
  3. What chair will you sit on? Put a cushion or festive pillow on it, or drape it with a tallit, special piece of fabric, or scarf.
  4. Change where you put your computer from a work space to a contemplative space by covering the desk or table with a white tablecloth, white runner, or white placemat, and a vase of flowers. You will be receiving a special candle from Temple Israel to light as your ner tamid (“eternal light”). Make a space for it where you will see it while watching services.
  5. Find meaningful objects to grace your space. Perhaps, on Rosh Hashanah include holiday objects like candlesticks and a kiddish cup, apples and honey.
    On Yom Kippur you can place cherished mementos, family heirlooms, and photos of loved ones to surround you. If you own a shofar, put it where it’s visible.
  6. If possible, learn how to stream our services to a large TV screen by viewing our YouTube channel or connecting a computer to the screen.
  7. Try to limit or disconnect auditory distractions. You can turn off your email and text message sounds, close your email program and any other distracting apps so you can be fully present during the service.
  8. Wear clothing that makes you feel as if you are entering a spiritual space. Wearing a kippah and tallit are encouraged, even if they are not always your choice in our sanctuary. Perhaps in the absence of seeing other people wearing religious garb, this year you can see it in your home.
  9. Be sure you have your machzor (holy day prayer book) with you. You can purchase copies from https://www.ccarnet.org/publications/hhd/ or view for free online. You can borrow one set per household from the Temple by requesting a set — to be returned after Yom Kippur.
  10. Our holidays are never just about the time we spend in our sanctuary. They begin at sunset and continue through the following day. Where possible, make the day special. Plan your meals, a favorite walk, phone calls to family and friends and even quiet time to reflect. This year, perhaps more than any other, you can put your stamp on making the High Holy Days personally meaningful.