Holy spaces, holy times


Two strand weave through Jewish traditions about holiness. In one strand, holiness is primarily about space: the Mishkan, the Temple, and the synagogue are sacred spaces where people could and can touch the divine, and we go to them to have these experiences, which can happen at any time. In the other strand, holiness is primarily about time: Shabbat, holidays, and life events from birth to death provide sacred moments in which we can experience the divine in our lives, which can happen in any space. As these strands are woven together, sometimes one seems completely dominant – as in the focus on Jerusalem as a “holy city” – and sometimes the other – as in the conception of Shabbat as, in Rabbi Heschel’s words, a “palace in time.” Our challenge is to figure out for ourselves both how to balance the importance of place and time and how to open ourselves to multiple different experiences of the divine within each. Wherever and whenever we do so, we fulfill the Torah’s mandate to bring holiness in to all aspects of our lives.