By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
Jewish Law prescribes that any room in which we pray – at home, in a synagogue, or elsewhere – be equipped with windows (See Berachot 34B; O.H. 90:4). The Rabbis trace this requirement to its Scriptural origins in Daniel 6:11. In his chamber, “Daniel had windows made, facing Jerusalem, and three times a day he knelt down and prayed to God.”
This ritual requirement may be calculated to expose the worshipper to the beauty of Creation, the handiwork of the Creator being addressed in prayer. Naturalist John Muir (the “Father of the National Parks”) declared: “Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God!”
Alternatively, windows may be intended to assure we maintain a social conscience… awareness and concern for our neighbors, for the “outside” world, for the challenges confronting society. We dare not grow so preoccupied with the texts and protocols of prayer that we isolate ourselves, remaining blind to the needs and dignity of others. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel understood: “Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God.”
Insisting that, even while at prayer, we remain aware of the outside world, is a window into the very soul of Jewish spirituality.
(Rabbi Joseph H Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)