After reading my post about sacred spaces, a couple of people sent me sacred space stories of their own:
I was on a plane to or from Atlanta recently, when the woman on my left said that her sister had just suffered a heart attack. She was on her way to see her and hadn’t slept all night. The very young woman on my right (who read a Christian bible during the rest of the flight) said that she would pray for the woman’s sister, then asked if she’d like for them to pray together. They held hands across my lap while the young woman recited a spontaneous prayer very fluently. The first woman was extremely touched and said several times that it had been very helpful and that she felt better.
Several years ago Kirk Douglas was making a film on a United States Navy heavy cruiser. An officer on board had Yahrzeit and wanted to say Kaddish. There wasn’t any Jewish Chaplain on board. Kirk Douglas led the minyan, and the officer was able to say Kaddish.
The wonderful thing about sacred space is that any place can become sacred, simply by dint of what people do there. An airplane, a hotel hallway, a naval cruiser. Doesn’t matter. They sometimes stay sacred afterwards, but usually the places go back to being their normal boring selves.
One day last year at the beach, Ellie saw six weddings (being Ellie, she actually attended all of them). For the six couples and their guests, their little sections of the beach were more than just sand, sun and waves. They were the center of the universe. And the next day, it was plain old beach again.
Growing up in America (probably all over the world) we’ve been taught to rely on official sacred spaces for our religious experiences. Synagogues, churches and the like. We make them as dramatic as possible. Stained glass, beautiful art, soaring ceilings. Then, when we’re let down – no transcendental moments, not a smidgen of enlightenment or even upliftedness – we blame the place, or the people in it. But it’s not the place’s fault, it’s what’s happening within, or rather, what’s not happening.
And that, my friends, brings us to sacred time and sacred behavior. Which reminds me of a not-so-sacred moment that happened at around 6:15 tonight. I was driving across town to pick up Paul from work, after dropping Ellie at her job (schlep, schlep, schlep). I reached for my phone to let him know I was on the way, and realized I’d left it at home.
I think I’ve said before that I turn off my computer for Shabbat, and have been contemplating giving up the phone as well. But the mini panic attack I experienced today taught me that I’m not at all ready for that seemingly small step. Nope, I’m sticking with the status quo regarding my observance (i.e. sacred behavior during sacred time) on Shabbat… for now.