Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve attended a variety of Shabbat and holiday services over Zoom. I have enjoyed the variety of leadership styles, the creative technical production, and the ability to see many familiar faces all together in a Brady Bunch-style grid.
And yet, even though I was praying with the congregation, services always felt slightly off without the physical shul. So that’s why for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I attended services at Temple Beth Nintendo.
Temple Beth Nintendo, colloquially known as TBN, is a synagogue located on the tropical island of Lazy Daisy. A once deserted island, the area is now home to a sprawling town with a museum, department store, flower garden, boardwalk, and all the peaches you could eat.
TBN is an independent egalitarian congregation. It’s not affiliated with any particular Jewish movement, but its doors are open to villagers of all genders and species. It’s not a very big space, but it can accommodate enough to make a minyan (which happens to coincide with the number of residents on the island).
Let’s take a tour of the sanctuary.
When you enter the room, you’ll notice some bookshelves on the left wall. Here you can grab your siddur and chumash. If you want some heavier reading, there are a couple volumes of Talmud available too. Just make sure to stack the books upright when you return them to the shelf!
If you look on the left and right walls, you’ll admire the impressive array of stained glass windows. It’s not quite clear what the abstract designs represent… perhaps it’s the 12 tribes of Israel? Or the layout of the Holy Temple courtyard? Whatever it is, the design certainly is beautiful. (Fun fact: According to Forward, stained glass has been prevalent in American synagogues since the late 19th century.)
Now you’ll want to grab a seat. With only two rows of pews, you really can’t get a bad view of the bimah. The chairs are flip-up style, the ones that make a crazy amount of noise when you stand up. The seats are decently comfortable, but firm enough to remind you that you’re standing for half the service anyways.
The back of the room contains the bimah area, where the magic happens. A long table sits in the middle, where the hazzan leads from and where the Torah will be read. Behind it, there is a modest wooden Aron Kodesh, which houses the Torah. Above it, hangs the ner tamid, the light that never goes out.
On the sides of the bimah there are chairs for the rabbi, cantor, and other honored guests. Looks like Rabbi Tom Nook and Cantor K.K. Slider have yet to show up, but we expect they’ll both enter before Shacharit begins.
Lastly, the back wall contains a quote from the Torah: “Mah Norah HaMakom Hazeh” or “How awesome is this place!” (Genesis 28:17). Can you think of a more appropriate description of Temple Beth Nintendo than that?
Of course, TBN doesn’t really exist, and I did not attend High Holiday services there. But while I davened Rosh Hashanah Musaf from the comfort of my bedroom, I started thinking about if it was possible to build a synagogue inside Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a game I’ve been playing almost daily since the start of the pandemic.
Unlike my Minecraft Sukkah challenge, I was not attempting to build something suitable for actual worship. Instead, I wanted to simulate the feeling of sitting in shul, using the variety of furniture, decorations, and clothing that Animal Crossing provides.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which is one of the top-selling games for Nintendo Switch, offers an infinite amount of creative possibilities. You can scrounge the internet for unique and beautiful designs built by players around the world. I have nowhere near the creativity that some of these other players have, but I’m glad that I could share my Animal Crossing synagogue with the world.
The synagogue has been a central part of Jewish communities for centuries, and just like Animal Crossing, they have endless varieties of interior and exterior designs. Temple Beth Nintendo does not imitate a specific design style, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit it was slightly inspired by Mosaic Law Congregation in my hometown of Sacramento, California.
I hope that we’ll all soon be able to physically return to our physical synagogues and appreciate their architecture. Until then, I’ll keep on visiting Temple Beth Nintendo. I’m just glad they don’t ask me for bells on Yom Kippur.
For the technical details, on how I built Temple Beth Nintendo inside Animal Crossing (including design codes), check the comments section below.