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Tabernacle, Temple and Synagogue

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Synagogues: Tabernacle

Wherever Jews are, they pray facing Jerusalem and wherever in the world they build synagogues they should orientate the ArkGlossary Term (containing the tablets of the law)within towards Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest city. This is to the south-east in Britain. Synagogues within Jerusalem face the Temple Mount.

Jews, however, do not need a building at all in orderGlossary Term to pray. The minimum requirement for collective worship is ten adult men (over the age of 13), called in Hebrew a Minyan. A Minyan can meet in a home, office, factory or shop or even in the open air. A Torah scroll (Sefer Torah) is required for public reading of the Law. This is a mode of worship eminently adaptable to a history of exile and wandering.

The idea of a portable "synagogue" has its origins very far back in Jewish history. In the Bible, the Book of Exodus (chs. 25-31, 35-40) describes the "SanctuaryGlossary Term" or "TabernacleGlossary Term", called in Hebrew Mishkan, which was erected by the Children of Israel during their forty years of wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt and reaching the Promised Land. This was basically a tent in a compound, made with wooden supports covered with fabric hangings on the inside and animal hides on the outside. There was a central tent (Ohel Moed), for "meeting" divided into two sections by a curtain: the outer "Holy Place" (HaKodesh) and the inner sanctuaryGlossary Term, the "Holy of Holies" (Kadosh Kadoshim, later called the Hehal). The Holy of Holies was only entered by the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol) on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Within was the portable ArkGlossary Term of the Covenant (Aron HaBrit), which traditionally contained the "Tablets of the Law" (Luhot) given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.



Chest or cupboard housing the tables of Jewish law in a synagogue.


One of a series of recessed arches and jambs forming a splayed medieval opening, e.g. a doorway or arcade arch. Also, an upright structural member used in series, especially in classical architecture: see Orders.


Used for the area around the main altar of a church.


Canopied structure in a church or chapel to contain the reserved sacrament or a relic. Also an architectural frame for an image or statue.