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The Origin of the Synagogue

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Western Wall, Jerusalem

The plan and arrangement of the synagogue, and much of its symbolism, derives from the Biblical Temple (Bet HaMikdash) built by King Solomon in Jerusalem, the capitalGlossary Term of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. The site is now occupied by the magnificent Islamic Dome of the Rock and El Aksa mosques and is holy to Jews and Muslims alike. This First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 586 Before the Common Era (BCE) and a Second Temple was erected after the returnGlossary Term of the Jews from exile in Babylon. The Second Temple was also destroyed, this time by the Romans in the year 70 of the Common Era (CE)

Although it is likely that Jewish communities beyond Israel (e.g. in Babylon, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Rome) had their own places of worship, the synagogue as we know it today really evolved after the fall of Jerusalem. It was conceived of as a Mikdash Me'at -"a little holy place" [Ezekiel 11:16] which would serve as a temporary place of worship until such time as the Temple itself would be rebuilt.


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