The existence synagogue of worship and ritual public spaces has been known for a long time. Evidence is obtained from the various temples and alters found in various parts of the world. The ceremonies and prayers, which take place in modern synagogues, use the latest physical structures. The religion of Judaism has a history rich in places that are memorable. In the United States, synagogues are referred to as temples. There are many followers of Judaism, and the number seems to grow at an extremely high rate.
The tabernacle is referred to as a centre whereby, public Jewish rituals took place. It is a structure, which resembles a large tent that existed for forty years in the desert. Furthermore, people used to carry it wherever they went. The menorah is a holy part of the tabernacle that housed the Ark of the Covenant. Only holy people were allowed to enter the menorah. One vital symbol that one cannot fail to notice is the candelabrum, which has seven golden branches. The latter is a symbol that is associated with Judaism (Barry, 2009.56).
Beit Knesset is a Hebrew word that has been translated into Greek to mean synagogue. Another term used to refer to a synagogue is the word ‘House of Assembly’. In a synagogue, various aspects of Jewish life are observed, as it is the centre of their lives. The aspects are spiritual, intellectual or social aspects of life. A synagogue must ensure that it faces the direction where Jerusalem is located. An image of an Ark exists, and it contains the Torah Scrolls. The latter are the Bible’s first five books, and are in a Hebrew script that is hand written. The books are of extreme relevance to followers of this religion, and they are highly regarded. Furthermore, the Torah has been hand written by a scribe. ‘Know before whom you Stand’ (Barry, 2009.67) are Hebrew words that are positioned above the Ark. Moreover, tablets exist on top of the ark and have some inscription of the Ten Commandments. Each of the first words contained in the commandments is found on the inscription. In the synagogue, there is an eternal light that hangs in the front side of the Ark. On the other side, a menorah is visible to all that enter the synagogue. It is a symbol that is found in every synagogue, in the world.
A ‘bimah’ exists at the synagogue’s center, and it is on a platform, which is raised. Also, there is a reading desk where the services instructions are conveyed to the congregation. The person providing the reading from the Torah must ensure that they face the Ark. There is a morning service that takes place on a daily basis. There are men who are in attendance, and they have shawls, which are uniform and similar. Four corners of the shawl used for prayer have fringes. The fringes are of Biblical importance as it is a commandment that the shawls have fringes. It is meant to have divinity purposes that men must always remember.
The seating arrangements in a synagogue dictate that women seat separately from men. There is a gallery located upstairs, and that is where the women are seated. Men are often distracted when they are praying and women are in their presence. In other synagogues that are conservative, women and men seat in the same level. Everyone in the congregation must ensure that they cover their heads, and this does not apply to young girls. There is a dividing structure, which is symbolic in nature. The congregation and the readers have different ways through, which they pray. It can be through singing of traditional melodies, chanting, are quiet recitals. There is no discrimination concerning who has the authority to lead and hold prayers. Any willing and able person can volunteer to lead the congregation in prayers. A rabbi is sometimes in charge of the service. There is a person in charge of sacred music due to their knowledge and voice. The person is known as a ‘cantor’ or a ‘chazzan’.
In a synagogue, there are three times that services are held on a daily basis. During the Sabbath, after the morning service, there is an additional service known as ‘Musaf’. The latter service also takes place during Thursday and Monday mornings. Most times, the prayers are recited in Hebrew, and English is also spoken. The Siddur is a book that contains the prayers that are recited at the synagogue. The prayers have to follow an order set out by the ‘Siddur’. Its history dates back to many years when the ‘Men of Great Assembly’ existed. They were involved in building a synagogue after they came home from exile. There has been integration of melodies and prayers, as this is a process of continuation by the liturgy. Furthermore, it is adapted from music and poetry from medieval Rhineland and Spain (Barry, 2009.84).
During the end and start of service, God is praised by making his attributes known through singing. At every stage, of the service, blessings must be mentioned, and this is vital in the worship. For example, when a fallen star has been witnessed, gratitude has to be expressed. Simple things, which other people might ignore, such as viewing a rainbow are a reason for praising God. Psalms is another aspect of the service whereby, prayers are based on the scripture of Psalms. In Jewish belief, ‘Shema’ is a key aspect and it has to be recited. It is referred as a statement that is vital in Judaism. In the book of Deuteronomy, the Shema recitation is found as well as in the book of Numbers. At night and in the morning the Shema must be recited (Hayes, 2011. 7).
A silent prayer known as the ‘Amidah’ is recited when one is standing. It is meant to ensure that God blesses the person nineteen times and is referred to as a petition. There are various paragraphs that exist, and they have different blessings. The members of the congregation must recite the ‘Amidah’ while the reader chants it. An example of the chant is “holy, holy, holy is the lord of hosts: the whole world is full of his glory” (Hayes, 2011. 9). Every Thursday and Monday, as well as on festivals and the Sabbath, the Torah has to be read. During the additional and morning service, a sermon has to take place. This is also witnessed during festivals, fasts and Sabbaths. Other times, readings are obtained from the ‘Haftarah’ and the Torah. The ‘Musaf’ is a service that is similar to an Amidah. Afterwards, there is a Kaddish, which is known as a prayer of sanctification. It normally takes place when there are recitations and mourning in the synagogue. It is meant to ensure that God’s attributes are celebrated.
At the synagogue, there are hereditary priests that perform a ceremony meant to bring blessings. In Ashkenazi synagogues, during fasts and festivals the ceremony is performed. On the other hand, in Sephardi synagogues, there is a daily occurrence of the ceremony. Priests chant statements that are meant to bless the congregation. Furthermore, they are situated at the Arks front, raised on a platform and are covered with prayer shawls. Lastly, a party is held at the end of service, and this is extremely customary. The congregation takes wine as they bless their Sabbath.
In conclusion, observing the service that occurs at a synagogue is extremely compelling. When compared to the readings provided in class, the observation provides more useful information. This is because one has a personal experience with this religion. Judaism has many rituals that have to be followed, and this enhances ones faith. People tend to follow religions, which are practical, such as Judaism. One hardly hears that people from this religion are involved in crime. The religion is similar to Catholic Christianity in some aspects, but indeed the experience at the synagogue was memorable. Any person who has an interest in religion should take time and visit a synagogue. They will find out how people from other religions carry out their services as compared to theirs.
Barry, Bandstra. Reading the Old Testament: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 4th Ed. California: Belmont, 2009.Print.
Hayes, Christine. Judaica Collection. Retrieved from http://www.library.yale.edu/judaica/ on 2011-11-23.
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