- Ark (synagogue)
Origin of the names
Aron Kodesh comes from Hebrew אָרוֹן קׄדֶשׁ "ʔārōn kodeš" (i.e. "aron kodesh"), "Holy Ark". This name is a reference to the "aron ha-kodesh", the Hebrew name for the
Ark of the Covenantwhich was stored in the Holy of Holiesin the ancient Tabernacleand the Temple in Jerusalem.
Hekhál, also written "hechal", "echal" or "heichal" — and sometimes also "Echal Kodesh" (mainly amongst Balkan Sephardim) comes from Hebrew הֵיכָל [hēkhāl] ‘palace’, a term which was also used in the time of the
Temple in Jerusalemto refer to the inner sanctuary containing the Holy of Holies. The things placed inside it are only very very religious and important things.
Placement and structure
The Ark is usually placed on or near that wall of the sanctuary which is facing
Jerusalem— in practice often on the East wall, even in many cases where this is not in the direction of Jerusalem, and in some cases also on a seemingly random wall which was seen as architecturally easiest when the synagogue was constructed. In those cases where the ark does not show the direction to Jerusalem, traditional Judaism instructs the worshipper to face the true direction towards Jerusalem in prayers like the Amida.
In ancient synagogues, such as the fifth-century synagogue in Susia, the torah scroll was not placed inside the synagogue at all, but in a room adjacent to it, showing that the sacredness of the synagogue does not come from the ark but from its being a house of prayer. The Torah was brought in to the synagogue for reading.
Most Arks feature a "
parokhet" (curtain). The parokhet can be placed outside the doors of the Ark (typical Ashkenaziand Mizrachicustom) or inside the doors of the Ark (typical Spanish and Portuguese and Moroccan Sephardi custom).
Ark of the Covenant
* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1778&letter=A “Aron Kodesh”] in
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.