Feng shui your shul for a more spir­i­tual ser­vice

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

RABBI KAYA Stern-Kauf­man is not happy with the or­derly rows of chairs fac­ing her be­fore her ses­sion starts.

In­stead, she sug­gests her au­di­ence come up with a bet­ter ar­range­ment. “Tune into your­selves,” she coun­sels. “You do know that we are in Eng­land,” one of the par­tic­i­pants re­marks. “We like to fol­low or­ders.”

But af­ter a minute or two, they move their chairs into a cres­cent around the vis­it­ing lec­turer.

“It feels more like a place where hu­man beings can be to­gether in a way that sup­ports what we want to hap­pen in this room,” she says ap­prov­ingly.

Rabbi Stern-Kauf­man is more at­tuned to the at­mo­spher­ics than most. Be­fore en­ter­ing the rab­binate, she was a prac­ti­tioner of feng shui, the an­cient Chi­nese art of us­ing space and de­sign to en­hance har­mony and well-be­ing.

Now she leads Ri­mon, a Jewish com­mu­ni­ty­inBerk­shire,Mas­sachusetts,one of a num­ber of new spir­i­tual ven­tures in the United States led by women.

She con­tin­ues with her un-English start, invit­ing peo­ple to join her in singing an Ap­palachian folk song, “O Lord, pre­pare me/To be a sanc­tu­ary”.

The sa­cred use of space is the theme of her ses­sion and sanc­tu­ary is a key word. She be­lieves that the lay­out of the Mishkan, the Taber­na­cle con­structed by the Is­raelites in the wilder­ness ac­cord­ing to the To­rah, fol­lows prin­ci­ples of feng shui and by un­der­stand­ing that, we can make our own places of wor­ship more con­ducive to spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence.

Many sy­n­a­gogues, how­ever, are too big and too grand for the com­mu­ni­ties that use them, with their seats lined up be­hind an el­e­vated bimah. The in­te­rior re­flects a hi­er­ar­chi­cal re­la­tion­ship be­tween the leader and the com­mu­nity. “Those kinds of spir­i­tual val­ues are fall­ing away,” she says. “They are not nec­es­sar­ily what is guid­ing our spir­i­tual lives to­day.”

By bet­ter use of light­ing, colours, ma­te­rial, sy­n­a­gogues can cre­ate more in­ti­mate set­tings.

“Space can lend it­self to en­hanc­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of God and con­nect­ing with one an­other,” she says.

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