The most pressing question of my week is, “who will get to sit next to Papa (my dad) at Shabbat dinner?” Every Shabbat evening at my parent’s home we go through the same routine. After all the family arrives we gather around to say what we are grateful for in the past week, we say the Shabbat blessings, and we sit down at the table for dinner. While the food may be different from week to week and we might be grateful for different things each Friday night, we NEVER change our seats. Our seat at the table, regardless of our age, is a fixed feature of each Shabbat. The most prized seat being, of course, to either side of Papa. I lost out on that seat years ago to my nephews, but the value and honor in sitting next to my dad is a premium luxury. We, and even our talmudic sages, know how important one’s physical place is in the world.
When we are not feeling well, when we are down on our luck, or in a funk, we know that we must make a change. Sometimes the change we make is for our health: getting more sleep, more exercise, or more of the right kinds of food. Other times the change we must make is a physical move to a different place: maybe we need to work in a different office, meet new friends, or try new places. Our tradition says that this kind of move, a physical one, is enough to change our destiny. I believe that it is time we do this within our sanctuary.
For four shabbatot in December we will experiment with a change of space. From December 8th to 29th, our seats will no longer face opposite the bimah. Instead, we will join together in several circles, each one larger than the next. Rather than Torah being high up, above the congregation, we will bring Torah down, into the very heart of the circle. Whereas we normally do not get to look into each other’s eyes in prayer, these shabbatot our prayers of gratitude, blessing, strength, and healing will be directed inward and toward each person we face.
Especially in the colder and darker days of Winter, we will be warmed and brightened by the light within us throughout Shabbat. We encourage everyone to come join us this month for this experiment in spirituality.
 Babylonian Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 16b