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Sacred Places: Real, or Do We Make Them Up?

From the pond of wasted adolescent days to Jerusalem and back.

by
P. David Hornik

Bio

March 17, 2013 - 7:00 am
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It has taken another twenty-five years or so to start to see what links the pond and Jerusalem.

Perhaps, since the differences are so vast, it’s not surprising that it’s taken so long. On the one hand, a lonely, poetically sensitive kid responding to some stolen hours “by the water.” On the other, a city whose name resonates through history and major religions like no other.

But just as one could say that the lonely kid imposed a significance on the pond, one could say the ancient Israelites did the same with the mountain town. Just a pond beside a golf course, like so many others; just a city, perhaps with some nice effects of color, light, and mood, like so many others.

Or, one could say that certain places have qualities that allow us to be touched by the transcendent, and so become “holy places” for us. That those qualities inhere in the places already, and aren’t something we invent.

True, my pond is not considered a “holy place”—but I doubt that many people have known its more intimate self as I have. As for Jerusalem, it’s been having that effect on many people for a long time, and it keeps having it.

****

image courtesy shutterstock / Pete Spiro / Suede Chen

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P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the new book Choosing Life in Israel. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/

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All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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Hebrews12
"18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[f]
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We make them up. I think a sacred place is always someplace where people believe a deity once interacted or continues to interact with them. God can be anywhere or everywhere, all the time. Without people to recognize the Presence, nobody would know. A lizard living on the Temple Mount doesn't think he's anywhere special. Without the people, there would be no Temple Mount. So it's always Place + People + God (or at least the belief in God). Take away the people and it's just another place.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We (as a society, not necessarilly an individual) make up our religions, we make up our sacred places, rituals, and writings to go with them.
That doesn't change their importance in our lives.

They're also highly cultural. For the American cult of the Presidency for example, the White House has become a temple, hallowed ground, as have many other places where the President has deigned to walk the earth among His flock.
For most of the rest of the world, it's just a rather poor copy of a neoclassical country mansion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2018:20&version=NKJV

The sacred place is where you and others are gathered in the name of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, of Nazareth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It came from the Hebrew shalom.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you . . . I thought that Jerusalem had "shalom" at the end. Where did those Mass. settlers get their name for the port city of Salem?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "salem," which sounds somewhat different in the Hebrew name, is thought to be connected to "shalom," which means peace, and "Jerusalem" is etymologized as Ihr-Shalom or "City of Peace."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Off-topic, but can you explain the "--salem" part of Jerusalem? I ask because I always wondered what the relationship is between the town names: Salem & Jerusalem.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nice frog.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lovely. Memories of streams and ponds of a New England childhood, transcendent all. Thanks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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