Making Commandments Beautiful: Part 3

July 5, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, July 5, 2013. 

Making Commandments Beautiful: Part 3

We've been looking at the Talmudic concept of Beautifying the Commandments - especially when it comes to the Sabbath. The Talmudic passage telling us to practice this beautification specifically mentions "make a beautiful mantle for the Torah." Although there are various times that we read the Torah publicly in the synagogue, including Mondays, Thursdays and holidays, the grandest Torah ceremony is the weekly reading of the Torah on Shabbat… Saturday mornings.

Most synagogues have multiple Torah scrolls all of which are housed in the "Ark" - a kind of holy cabinet. When the Ark is opened, the first thing the congregation notices is the richness of the Torah appurtenances: a woven or embroidered mantle, silver crowns for the Torah rollers, or staves, a breast plate often with gemstones. Often, the designs are modeled after the descriptions of the clothing of the High Priest found in the Book of Exodus complete with the rich scarlet and gold colors described, pomegranates and bells and gemstones in a breastplate. Reading from the Torah is indeed a grand spectacle - the Torah is lifted on high. In Askenazic (European) synagogues, the crowns, breastplates, and mantles are removed, and the Torah is laid flat on a reader's table. In Sephardic (Spanish, or Mediterranean) synagogues, the Torah scrolls are often rolled into a "Tik" - an ornately decorated standing Torah case. Often the elements of the Torah ornaments are lovingly created by members of the congregation… other times purchased or commissioned. In congregations that have many Torah scrolls, an open ark is particularly spectacular.

Shabbat Shalom

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