1a). What does the word synagogue mean and where did it originate from? How did synagogues begin?
Synagogue could be defined as a building or place of meeting for worship and religious instruction in the Jewish faith. The word syn means together and the word agogue means gathering. The word synagogue means gathering together. The synagogue is believed to have originated approximately 25 centuries ago in Babylon, few years prior to the obliteration of the first temple. Some Jews who were deported there began assembling in each other’s houses to pray together and study the Torah. Soon after separate buildings were sat aside for prayer, these were the first synagogues.
1b). Describe the main features of a synagogue?
In an orthodox synagogue there are many features such as; The Ark, The Bimah, The Ner Tamid, A Pulpit and The Mechitzah. The Ark also known as Aron ha-kodesh inside it is the torah, the holiest object in the synagogue. The Ark is positioned in a way that whoever faces it, faces towards Jerusalem. The Bimah is a large platform where the torah is read from. The Ner Tamid also known as the “Eternal Lamp” is a constantly lit lamp or lantern which is a reminder of the lamp in the temple which remained miraculously lit. A pulpit is located in front of the Ark or beside it. This is where speakers stand to give sermons. A Mechitzah divides the men's and women's seating areas. In places where there is not enough room to seat both sexes on one floor, the women's section is located on a balcony.
2). Explain why Jews variously describe a synagogue as house of assembly house of study and house of prayer? What is the significance of these names for the life of Jews today?
The Jewish people refer to the synagogue in three different terms.
These are: Beit k'nesset which means the house of assembly as the
synagogue often holds social events, Bet Midrash which means house of study as this refers to the intellectual role that the synagogue...