ACCESSING THE TABERNACLE AND ACCESSING THE SYNAGOGUE
The sidrot from now till the end of Shemot, deal with the Mishkan or Tabernacle. Here is a guide to its essential components:
- Outer Court – enclosed by curtains supported by pillars, 100 cubits long and 50 cubits wide. The entrance was on the eastern side, while the Altar of Sacrifice, covered with copper, stood facing the entrance. A little further to the west was the basin of copper for the washings of the priests.
- Tent of Meeting – the western part of the court contained the Tent of Meeting. A parochet or partition separated the Holy from the Holy of Holies. Only the priests could enter the Holy in which was contained the Table, the Altar of Incense and the Menorah
- Holy of Holies – the inner chamber in which the high priest could enter only on Yom Kippur.
- Ark – consisting of an outer chest of gold, containing a chest of wood, containing an inner chest of gold. Inside the chest was the Ten Commandments. On top of the Ark was the Kaporet or golden cover which was adorned by the two golden cherubim. G-d’s communication to Moses emanated from this place.
Some features of the modern synagogue recall the architecture of the Tabernacle. For example, the ner tamid or perpetual light above the Ark, reminds us of the central lamp of the Menorah which was always burning, and the Curtain in front of the Aron Hakodesh recalls the Parochet. Unlike the Tabernacle Ark, which was a chest, accessed from the top, our synagogue Ark is like a cupboard, accessed from the side.
The bima of the synagogue where the service takes place and the Torah is read, suggests the main Altar in the Temple.
One feature that is present in our modern synagogues is security. We need to ensure that those accessing our premises are doing so for the right reasons. It is interesting to note that the Tabernacle had security of a different kind: the cherubim. Rabbi David Fohrman points out the cherubim were not only above the Ark but they were in two other places as well. The Parochet or curtain, separating off the Holy of Holies was adorned with woven cherubim. The coverings that covered the entire Tabernacle contained a layer that was also embroidered with cherubim. Thus cherubim were there to challenge entry at deeper and deeper access points: Entering the Tabernacle, entering the Holy of Holies, and Ark itself. As we enter our synagogues today, we need to ask ourselves how well we satisfy our spiritual entry requirements.