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    A broad sanctuary – T’rumah

    Model of the Second Temple

    Model of the Second Temple

    Ex. 25:18 contains the command, “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst”.

    We observe the mitzvah by building synagogues, preceded in ancient times by the tabernacle and temple.

    Note that the whole edifice was the sanctuary – not just the area set aside for sacrifices and liturgy. Part of the sanctuary was the ancillary rooms: teaching rooms, meeting rooms, even a hostel for overnight accommodation, even bathrooms.

    An inscription from about 10 BCE records that a synagogue in Jerusalem was erected by “Theodotus, the son of Vettenos, priest and chief of the synagogue”, who “built this synagogue for the reading of the Torah and the teaching of the commandments, and also this hostel with its chambers and water-fittings for the needs of those who, coming from the outside, lodge there…”

    Other activities associated with the sanctuary included social welfare services, charity in the broadest sense.

    The synagogue was a place where the community met for prayer but also where they studied, lodged and ate (the institution of a Kiddush in the synagogue indicates that people who stayed in the precincts had their meals there too). All these activities were sacred; whatever one did in the synagogue precincts was dedicated to the Almighty.

    Modern critics sometimes attack the community centre dimension of the synagogue, not realising that when people gather and build a community the Divine purposes are advanced.

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