Creating Sacred Space with Sacred Sound by Cantor Andrew Bernard

Sacred space can be created in many different places and in many different ways. You don’t need to be in a Sanctuary to find yourself on holy ground. Standing on an ocean shore watching the sun rise or set over the water can be a sacred experience. Being in a hospital room witnessing a birth or a death can feel sacred. Sitting quietly with friends around a campfire or sitting alone listening to lush music can be holy — something, Jewish tradition teaches, that is special or out of the ordinary.

On the High Holy Days, we seek that which is special; that which is out of the ordinary. When we contemplate our lives, our behaviors, and our hopes for the future, we seek to set aside a time and place to have that conversation with ourselves and, for many, with a Divine presence. Profound thinking requires suspending the noise of the mundane. To be transformed in some way through the experience of the High Holiday season we must find sacred space.

While we hope that our Temple Beth El sanctuary always provides space for the sacred encounter, it feels somehow different to me on the High Holidays. The physical space is transformed to accommodate more people. We use different prayerbooks and dress the Torah scrolls in white. When I put on my white robe, I feel like I have left behind the mundane world — and I am enveloped in both an historic sacred tradition and a personal family tradition, as that robe was a gift from my grandmother.

The High Holidays are also marked by sacred sounds. The special melodies, the rich textures of our choir mixed with solo voices floating over the majestic sound of the organ transport me to a place I do not experience at any other time of year.

Those of us who have the privilege of making the music find great blessing in this season. Choir members tell me that they experience the words of the liturgy and the weight of the season more profoundly. I know for myself that I am able to share a greater depth of personal spirit and emotion with our community of worshippers. Oddly, the experience of the season leaves me simultaneously enriched and drained — and always renewed.

I would encourage anyone possessing a degree of musical ability to join in the music-making of the season. The experience brings great depth to the already-profound words and ideas of the liturgy. Our choir begins preparing in early August, and even though much of the music is the same from year to year, each season brings new insights, new beauty, and new inspiration. Consider being a part of the beautiful music you hear each year — and consider reaching new heights in your own experience of our magnificent holiday season.

High Holy Days Choir: Tuesdays, 7:30–9:30pm beginning August 9th
Contact: Cantor Bernard at