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What is the purpose of the synagogues? Why no pictures of humans, even saints, can be found in the synagogues? Which synagogue is the greatest? And did you know that the famous generic cialis onlineGolem is likely to wander through the streets of Prague?
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE SYNAGOGUES?
The name itself will help – the word synagogue is derived from the Greek term for gathering (συναγωγη, synagógé). It is a Jewish sanctuary which has more purposes. The first and most important purpose are naturally the sacral gatherings, however the Jews meet here for social purposes or because of religious studies. Often the term „synagogue“ stands for an entire complex of the buildings. We will also find the rabbi here who looks after the whole object. The main hall is always the most important and is used for the services. In the past the synagogue served as sanctuary, school and the scene of public dealings, only later the first religious function prevailed and for the other two special buildings were established – midraš and the Jewish townhall.
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE HISTORY
According to traditions the history of a synagogue dates back to the 10th century BC when the first Jewish temple had been founded – „The first temple“, sometimes also called Solomon´s temple. However, it was destroyed during Babylonian captivity of the Jews under the reign of the noted Nabuchadnezzar II at the beginning of the 6th century BC and the Jews were forced to leave to Babylon. Those who managed to return to the homeland built the Second temple and they had no more to be afraid of persecutions, for the newly published decree declared religious freedom. Unfortunatelly, we cannot see this temple any more because it was burnt down by Roman troops in 70 AD.
WHAT DOES A SYNAGOGUE LOOK LIKE?
Initially we need to say there is actually no obligatory image followed by the synagogue builders. As for the construction, the synagogues do origin from the Near East just like the mosques, yet there are far more differences between them. There is a separated space for women in the orthodox synagogues, on the other hand the reformed synagogues are very close to the Christian churches and both women and men attend the services together. The fundamantal distinction is the fact that no portraits of humans, for instance in the image of statues which could be interpreted as idolatry – which is forbidden by one of the Ten Commandments, it could namely end up in idolatry of something not being a God and which would basically deprive the God himself of the demonstations of devotion. There is another important rule – the synagogues are east-oriented, i.e. towards Israel. And what about the Israeli synagogues? They are standing in direction of Jerusalem. And the synagogues in Jerusalem towards the Temple Mount. In the east side (oriented towards Jerusalem) a sanctuary (aron ha-Kodeš) is to be found. It contains the scrolls of the Torah, their number depends on the actual synagogue. We will also find the „eternal light“ (ner tamid) in the synagogue. It symbolizes the continuously burning menorah (מנורה, the sevenbranched canddelabrum, traditional symbol of Judaism. There are several interpretations of this term – seven branches of the candelabrum are related to seven days of genesis or to the burning bush which was according to the Torah seen by Moses on the Mount Sinai. Perhaps one more remark – why is the floor of a synagogue often below the level of the neighbouring ground? Simply, in order to meet the verse of the Psalm 130, 1: „Out of bottomless depth I am calling for you, my Lord.“
THE WORLD´S GREATEST
synagogue is currently Bejt ha-midraš Ger. It is to be found in Jerusalem and it will literally impress you due its size – it has capacity of more than 8 500 places.
THE GREATEST synagogue OUTSIDE ISRAEL
is in New York.
THE EUROPEAN GREATEST
synagogue is in Budapest, the second greatest synagogue in Plzeň.
PRAGUE´S BEST – STARONOVÁ SYNAGOGA (OLD-NEW SYNAGOGUE)
Old-New Synagogue (czech: Staronová synagoga) is the longest-operating synagogue in the world. Besides, it is the second-oldest world´ s synagogue. It was built in the first half of the 13th century and it is one of the early Gothic Prague´s monuments.
The first room we enter is the entrance hall where two money boxes for tax collectors used to stand. The entrance to the main hall is formed by a gateway on whose frontispiece we can spot the motive of vine with twelve wine grapes – probably a symbol representing twelve Istraeli tribes.
The main hall is divided in two aisles, separated by octahedral pillars. Symbolically, there are twelve windows on the walls again. The ceiling arch is formed by five ribs to avoid making a cross. A curiosity is a flag with the sign of the Prague´s Jewish community. It is formed by the Star of David with a pointed Jewish hat in its centre. That comes from the period when the Prague´s Jews, when leaving the ghetto, had to wear such label. The flag is related to the privileges, which were given to the Jewish Town by Charles IV.
The third part of the synagogue is formed by a female room used mainly as an oratory.
FINALLY A BIT OF MYSTERY…
There is an ancient legend related to the Old-New Synagogue. Rabbi Löw is supposed to have placed Golem in its garret and he had forbidden everyone to go there. However, some people ignored the restriction and they tried to reveal the mystery of the famous Golem. One of them was the „furious reporter“ Egon Erwin Kisch but he found nothing in there. Or perhaps Golem got bored of the waiting – who knows.
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