Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Grand And The Intimate

I was in Park Slope today with some of my children. Between stoop sales, flea markets and front step freebies we did OK. Then there was Barnes and Noble. When I speak to my children in Barnes and Noble, I can sometimes hear my father.

What brought back memories in Park Slope was seeing large churches. When I was a child, all the houses of worship were built for prayer. They were imposing, awe inspiring strutures with cavernous acoustics.

Most of the time, the houses of worship I go to are homes that have been converted to the use of a congregation. There is the occasional storefront. In Israel I prayed in bomb shelters. The place I go to on Shabbos has the neat austerity of an Israeli shtiebel. It is a basement, in which one's eyes are drawn upward. Daylight and fleeting drafts of air arrive on the heels of arriving congregants.

There are still a couple of huge synagogues that I like to go to occasionally. Interspersing the shtiebel with the large synagogue puts me in touch with feelings of awe and trepidation alternating with familial intimacy. The grand structures alternating in my life with the cozy and familiar remind me of the different facets of spiritual experience, of communing with a hidden yet intimate G-d. I notice the same spectrum of the grand and the familiar in the architecture of other faiths, in which homes and storefronts are adapted to worship.

The suburbs do not offer this spectrum of the grand and the intimate, the imminent and the transcendent. I feel as though the architecture of worship expresses these aspects of religious experience, giving tangible form to truths I feel but find difficult to articulate. The skyline has spoken. Sphere: Related Content

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