|Full View Temple Sanctuary Looking Toward Front
||Stained Glass Above Bimah and Torah Ark |
So many of you have asked me to explain the meaning of our beautiful stained glass windows and the thought process that went into the design of our bimah area and other parts of our sanctuary, so tonight I will try to unravel some of the mystery for you.
The Building Committee invited me to attend some meetings with our architect, John Dickerson. We had several discussions about the design of the bimah area and the stained glass windows.
Most synagogues include Jewish symbolism in their sanctuary design. The design of our ark signifies the seven days of creation by the seven candles etched into the doors.
Our Ark houses our eighty-five year old European Torah, and there is room for the addition of two more Torahs.
The two steps leading up to the Ark represent the two tablets of the Law given to Moses.
The three steps leading up to the Bimah represent the three-fold promise that God made to the Israelites:
||Yeh-vaw-reh-cheh-chol Adonoi veh-yish-meh-reh-chol- May God bless you and keep you|
||Yaw-air Adonoi paw-nauv-aleh-chaw ve-chu-neh-chah - May God look with favor upon you, and be gracious unto you|
||Ye-saw Adonoi paw-nauv alechchaw v'yaw-saym l'chaw Shalom - The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.|
I explained to the Facilities Committee that the remonim that crown our Torah had the coats of arms of the twelve tribes of Israel etched into them, and I thought it would be a wonderful idea to tell the story in stained glass. And so, the complete top of the Eastern Wall of our Temple contains that story .
You will notice that the two-toned gray area in these first three windows form a chain link looped together. The breath of God sweeps through these windows parting the waters on either side of the Temple and breaking the chains of bondage.
The twelve banners each bear a symbol of one of the twelve tribes. Jacob fathered twelve sons. They are the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel and the ones for whom the tribes are named. Each occupied a separate territory, except the tribe of Levi, which was set apart to serve in the Holy Temple. These twelve banners flow towards the center to represent the Exodus.
The numerous stars in the sky surrounding these banners remind us of God's promise to Abraham... "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven."
These are the emblems of the twelve tribes. Starting right to left:
||The banner of Reuben - Water - Jacob's first born|
||The banner of Simeon - The Sword - The instrument of war|
||The banner of Levi - The Breastplate - The protector of the Tabernacle|
||The banner of Judah - The Lion - Strength and consistency of purpose|
||The banner of Zebulun - The Ship on the Sea - His territory is described as a shore for ships to come in safety|
||The banner of Issachar - The Strong Ass with Two Burdens - Great physical power|
||The banner of Dan - The Serpent - A horned snake but highly venomous|
||The banner of Gad - Troop, Tent, and Spear - Commandos, raiders |
||The banner of Asher - Horn of Plenty - Delicacies fit for the tables of Kings|
||The banner of Naphtali - Hind - Swiftness and grace of movement|
||The banner of Joseph - The Fruitful Vine|
||The banner of Benjamin - A Wolf that Raveneth or That Teareth - Referring to the warlike character of the tribe|
According to Hasidic legend, there have to be 36 righteous people on earth for the world to continue. These 36 tzaddikim are represented by the 36 jewels in the background of these three larger windows.
Our Eastern Wall is covered with Jerusalem stone, a natural stone material coming from areas from the Jordan River on the East to the Mediterranean Sea on the West, and from the southern port of Eilat on the Red Sea to the Galilee and Haifa on the North. This natural stone is a dolomite-limestone. The stone comes from the quarries in large blocks and is then cut into smaller slabs. These slabs go through a distressing process which includes a hammer and chisel effect. The slabs are then cut into small blocks and are exported all over the world. Many 'synagogues around the world use Jerusalem stone in their architecture.
The Star of David on the Western Wall is done in an acid-etched glass that has a surface so the linage will stand out from the other glass used.
Through the Star of David grows the Tree of life. The tree has twelve branches, again representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The leaves change through the seasons of life, moving upward from spring through summer, fall, winter and, at the very top, a touch of spring color again to complete the cycle of life.
The west flanking windows have the leaves (representing members of the twelve tribes) being swept toward the center Star of David window.
The background colors in these windows change to a sunset effect symbolizing the start of Shabbat.
The west wall also contains the pictorial mural of our patriarch Moses from being found in the bulrushes, the opening of the Red Sea, and bringing the law of God down from Mt. Sinai.
The red chairs and crimson carpet represent the swaddling cloth that Moses was wrapped in as he floated down the Nile.
I'm sure you have noticed that our beautiful front doors have tile Torah Scrolls 'with the word 'shalom' in Hebrew etched in. The handles are ram's horns, which had many uses. They became the musical instrument of the Hebrews as well as an early warning system to alert the people of danger.
Soon we hope to have the six large windows on the sides of the Temple sanctuary finished in stained glass. We have several themes in mind.
I hope that this helps answer questions you may have had about our sanctuary. This building and sanctuary were a true labor of love.
Sermon written and delivered by Spiritual Leader Sheldon Skurow.
Webmaster R Fishman
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