As a design group working cooperatively on different projects we found “sanctity” an interesting topic as each of us approached it from different perspectives and backgrounds.
Our discussion focused on the essential question: Is there something that is sacred for us? If so, what makes it sacred?
We began with objects that are considered sacred and we were primarily drawn to objects that included the relationship of cover and content - phylacteries, mezuzot, prayer shawls, challah covers. From the material covers we moved to symbolic covers: in layers, in ritual, in excitement, in time and in place. Does the cover become an object of sanctity? Perhaps the cover is sanctity itself?
We chose a specific moment to freeze, the moment when everything is ready for welcoming the Sabbath. We did not create the objects themselves but rather used a covering that was a white woven cloth, sewn and starched. The table represents preoccupation with materialism, with food, drink and utensils, whereas the airy covering, spread from above, envelops the table and its contents in an attempt to convey the spirits of the objects.
Freezing the very moment that regularly repeats itself, a familiar moment, that is strongly rooted and even banal - like staging a scene that is the icon of a Sabbath table - allows for reexamination.
In Martin Buber’s Or HaGanuz (The Hidden Light), a tale is told about Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zusya who dealt with the following question: Is it possible that the feeling of sanctity surrounding the Sabbath day is but an illusion, but that this too is a way to serve God? They decided to painstakingly prepare a Sabbath meal on a weekday, taking care to include the proper dress and reciting of commentaries on the Torah, and if they would then indeed experience the sanctity of the Sabbath, they would then understand that their path was incorrect. And indeed, when they prepared the Sabbath feast they immediately felt the sanctity of the Sabbath. In their distress they turned to their Rabbi, the Maggid of Mezritch, and related what took place, and he told them the following: “If you wore your Sabbath clothes and put on a ‘Shtreimel’ (a fur hat worn by married Haredi Jewish men on the Sabbath and holidays), then of course you felt the sanctity of the Sabbath, because Sabbath clothes and the ‘Shtreimel’ have within them the power to maintain the holy light of the Sabbath even on a weekday. You have nothing to fear.”