Day 17 & 18 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary.
Taking a pause to breathe after being away at a conference in Chicago. Here is a sanctuary practice repost from the archives.
While in Boston, one of the many places I lived was in a lovely old building in a long-standing Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Originally, the apartment complex was occupied by Jewish families who needed to live within walking distance of the near-by synagogue since cars were not used on the Sabbath. Ownership of the building had shifted over the years and it now houses mostly students, but a remnant of its past and location remains: many of the apartment doors still have a mezuzah affixed to the frame.
I didn’t notice mine until after I moved in–it was so painted over, the four inch long tube was almost lost against the frame. But one day, I saw it and knew instantly was it was–the Hebrew letter shin (short for shaddai, or Lord) just slightly raised on its small surface like braile.
Inside the mezuzah lives a scroll with words from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, the Shema prayer, which begins “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.”
With care, I removed it, cleaned off the decades of paint, and replaced it. The shining metal was now a visible reminder to pray every time I walked through the door. It was a particularly difficult and lonely season of my life, and my sense of God’s presence was next to nothing.
I made a point of touching the mezuzah, as is the Jewish custom, whenever I passed it. It became for me a visual anchor, reminding me of God’s presence through the ages–a connection, a quiet memory, a way through, a path forward, a blessing.
The mezuzah speaks
of years touched
by fingers of faith or
Painted over in ignorance
pryed at, forgotten–
hidden scroll still and
like G-d’s voice to Elijah.
My fingers long to seek
metal and letters, a tie
to a deeper hope
across years and many lives and cosmos.
I reach out with hand, eye, and ask it,
Are You still there? I miss You.
It answers simply
(Susan Forshey, 2007)