According to the Talmud,  “One who designates a place for his prayer, the God of Abraham assists him… and how do we know that Abraham designated a place?- As it is written: ‘And Abraham rose in the morning to the place where he had stood’” The commentators point out that this statement seems unnecessary. We have places already designated for worship services- synagogues, churches, mosques, etc. Let a person go and pray; why should one need to explicitly designate a personal sacred space?

I’ve noticed that hospitals and airports generally have chapels on site. In the case of hospitals, a chapel is space designated for those seeking comfort at times of illness or loss. Airport chapels strike me as a bit ominous; it seems they are meant to offer peace of mind to those anxious about perils that may occur inflight. I once came across a small public garden bearing a plaque which explained it had been established to provide a place for quiet reflection and contemplation. That’s about it. There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of spots out there reserved for routine personal prayer. Our private spaces are no better. Modern dwellings come equipped with all sorts of rooms meant offer a variety of compelling amenities, but the realtor is unlikely to cheerfully point out, “And here we have the space designated for prayer.”

A while back, I took the Talmud’s advice and devoted a small area of my home, about the size of a walk in closet, for private devotion. My hobby is orchids and there I am surrounded by these intriguing, vexing, wonderful little plants. In the Jewish tradition, every “amen” is preceded by a blessing. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “The amen of nature is always a flower.” My personal sacred space is where I may offer the blessing.

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine