The Great SynagogueThe official synagogue of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Great Synagogue is more than just another synagogue: it is the closest thing Jews have to a temple of worship that echoes the Holy Temple of ancient days
The official synagogue of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Great Synagogue is more than just another synagogue: it is the closest thing Jews have to a temple of worship that echoes the Holy Temple of ancient days. While most synagogues in Jerusalem are simple houses of worship—with some services even taking place in the lobbies of apartment buildings—the architects of the Great Synagogue pulled out all the stops when it came to grandeur, constructing a building that is imposing on the outside and magnificently appointed on the inside.
The marble-floored foyer is lined on all sides with glass display cases that contain thousands of mezuzot, many with historic value. A mezuzah is a slender case containing a scroll inscribed with a central Jewish prayer, the Shema, and which is required by Jewish law to be affixed to every doorpost.
The Synagogue itself is reminiscent of a medieval throne room, with spectacularly high ceilings and ornate stained glass windows. The focus of the room, rather than on a throne, is on a raised dais and the cabinet that contains Torah scrolls. This dais, known as the bimah, is where the cantor stands as he leads the prayer services.
One of the most distinctive features of the Great Synagogue is its professional cantor and choir, whose songs are inspired by the rich tradition of Jewish liturgical music throughout the ages. The High Holy Days services are particularly famous for their heart-rending evocations of melancholic yet joyful tunes.
The shape of the Great Synagogue was modeled after that of Jerusalem’s ancient Holy Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans 2,000 years ago.
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