Unlike the majority of the individuals who have written about “sanctuary” throughout Elul and have touched on spirituality, their connection with family, or even the warmth of the holidays, I view sanctuary in a physical way. Part of my role here is tending to the physical sanctuary space that we gather in to learn and pray. As the congregation soaks in the sermon at Erev Shabbat Worship, I am scanning the room to see if there is someone who might be struggling to see because the lights are too dim. I listen for faults like “pops” and “hissing” from the microphone. I can smell and taste if the air is too warm for comfort. I am fulfilled as a Jew knowing that I can make someone else’s Jewish experience meaningful.
The first lesson I was taught when began as the executive director was to always look up. By looking up you take in the whole picture. What is on the walls, where does something need repair, is that another light out. I can’t walk into a space around the building without noticing how it looks and feels. That look and feel affects the way we each respond to what happened to us before we entered, while we are there and what will happen after we leave. Each experience makes the difference in the day of our congregants and guests.
When I worked in retail, each store had a scientific approach about their physical space and what needed to be in order to get the desired reaction, which was always to spend more money. Here at temple, we strive to make our sanctuary as “warm” and inviting as possible. We fill it furniture and art to make it as comfy as possible. The last and most important thing that it is filled with are people. The people bring the sanctuary to life.