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Preparing for High Holy Days at Home

The Temple in Jerusalem was called the Beit Ha-Mikdash (Sanctuary/Home of Holiness). When the Jewish people were exiled from Jerusalem, the sages said of our ancestors that God’s presence, the Shechinah, went with them. The synagogue and our homes became a Mikdash Me-at (a Miniature Sanctuary/Home of Holiness). We are accustomed to the holiness of our sanctuary at Temple Sinai: the ark, the stained glass windows, friends and family, our community, the rabbis and cantor, group aliyot for Torah blessings, and so much more. 

This year the experience will be different. This year we seek to sanctify our homes as a sacred space for the holidays.

  • Select Your Prayer Place. Some of us have a fixed place for our computers or other devices. Others can set up computers in different locations in our homes. If possible, select a special place to participate in services. Once you have set up the computer or other device for the service, cover the keyboard (you can use a white or decorative cloth) so you will be able to bring your attention to the service.
  • Consider Connecting Your Computer or Other Device to a TV. You can have a more immersive experience if you connect your computer to a television. This can be done with an HDMI cable or wireless device.
  • Pictures and Mementos of Holiness. Because you will be participating in services through a screen, arrange things that will make the experience sacred to you. You could cover your desk or table with a white or decorative tablecloth. If you cannot be with family or friends, set up pictures of them near you so they will feel close to you. You could also arrange flowers to make your prayer space feel festive. You may also want to have Jewish ritual objects, like candlesticks or a shofar, or other mementos that remind you of special memories.
  • Machzor, High Holy Day Prayerbook. Temple Sinai will provide a copy of Mishkan HaNefesh for each family (see page 9 for more information). We will send out special prayerbooks for the family services. You can purchase extra copies of Mishkan HaNefesh from Kindle. Have your machzor ready for the start of the service.
  • Blessing the Space. You can offer a blessing to make the place sacred before the start of services. A sample prayer is:
  • Clothing for the High Holy Days. We are used to wearing dress clothes to synagogue for the High Holy Days. In some communities, people wear a kittel, a white garment like a robe, and do not wear leather on Yom Kippur. Select special clothes to wear for services. At some Jewish summer camps everyone wears white for Shabbat. At others, campers and staff bring nice Shabbat clothes. Even though you’re at home, we encourage you to dress for the High Holy Days.
  • Prayerful Readings or Sacred Doodling. At times we are distracted or bored watching our screens. We may switch to other activities and watch the screen on autopilot. Instead of these distractions consider looking for alternate readings in the Machzor, High Holy Day prayerbook, or have nearby a book with inspiration readings. Consider illustrating or writing a response to a verse from the Machzor. Please make sure to use a separate piece of paper.
Tue, September 29 2020 11 Tishrei 5781