Rabbi's Message

Temple Sisterhood Happy November Tifereth Israel of Winthrop!

As we continue through the passage of the Fall season and the Hebrew month of Mar-Heshvan, we begin to settle into the normalcy of life post-chagim.

At the end of October, we turned the Torah scrolls back once again, returning to the beginning of Genesis. As we revisit the Torah, like an old familiar novel, we fall back into the reoccurring themes (good vs bad, sibling rivalry, trust issues in G-d, respect for the land), the same old characters, (Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Rachel, Benjamin, Dinah, Leah, etc.) with all their successes, failures, role-model behavior, and cautionary character flaws.

However, this year, rather than falling back into our comfortable ways of focusing on our favorite holidays and the Torah stories we love, let’s try pushing ourselves to embrace a tradition, holiday, individual, event, Hebrew phrase, or phenomenon in the Torah that maybe we don’t know so much about. Ever been curious about an obscure name in this week’s parsha? Not sure what Noah’s ark looked like? What route Abraham took in his family’s journey to the Land of Canaan? These are just some of the burning questions I have when we gloss over the weekly Torah portions. When we re-read these stories from our childhood, let us move through our initial understanding of the parables to generate some curiosity and interest beyond the words in the Chumash. We should critically analyze the character development of the individuals in our Torah. Have we considered the perspectives of all characters in the Torah? What do Rashi or our sages say? If we push ourselves to think differently about how we interact with these stories, then we grow in our understanding of the Torah and the world around us.

Let us continue to re-invent Torah in completely new, refreshing ways.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,
Student Rabbi David Joslin

A Bit of Israel – The Hurva Synagogue

     The Hurva Synagogue is found in the Old City of Jerusalem, a short distance from the Western Wall (Kotel) Plaza. Hurva, in Hebrew, means ruin. The Hurva Synagogue was the tallest and grandest of the 58 synagogues that stood in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter before 1948. The original synagogue was completed in 1864. Its construction was made possible through donations by Jews from around the world and with the help of the Ottoman sultan Abdulmejid, whose chief architect, Assad Bey, designed the building. The synagogue was considered the most important in Jerusalem. The synagogue was badly damaged by Jordanian shellfire in 1948 and subsequently demolished.
     The Hurva Synagogue was founded in the early 18th century by followers of Judah HeHasid on the ruins of a 15th century synagogue, but was destroyed a few years later in 1720 by Ottoman authorities. The site of the synagogue lay desolate for over 140 years and became known as "The Ruin", or Hurva. In 1864, the synagogue was rebuilt by Jews from Lithuania and although officially named the Beis Yaakov Synagogue, it retained its name as the Hurva. It became Jerusalem's main Ashkenazic synagogue.
     This 19th century Hurva Synagogue was designed and constructed under the supervision of Assad Effendi, the Ottoman sultan's official architect. Built in Byzantine Revival style, it was supported by four massive pilasters at each corner over which soared a large dome. The construction of only one of these towers was completed. The other three were missing the upper level and the small dome that capped it. The facade was covered in finely hewn stone and incorporated window arches 41 feet high. The height of the synagogue to the bottom of its dome was around 52 feet and to the top of the dome it was just under 80 feet. Twelve windows were placed around the base of the dome, which was surrounded by a veranda, which offered a fine view of large parts of the Old City and the area around Jerusalem. Being one of the tallest structures in the Old City, it was visible for miles.
     From 1864 until 1948, the Hurva Synagogue was considered the most beautiful and most important synagogue in the Land of Israel. It was described as "the glory of the Old City" and the "most striking edifice in all of Palestine". It also housed part of the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, the largest yeshiva in Jerusalem. It was a focal point of Jewish spiritual life in the city and was the site of the installation of the Ashkenazic chief rabbis of both Palestine and Jerusalem.
     On May 27, 1948, during the battle for the Old City, the Jordanian Arab Legion placed a barrel filled with explosives against the synagogue wall. The explosion resulted in a gaping hole. Afters the Legionnaires took the Hurva Synagogue, they blew it up without reason. A huge explosion reduced the 84-year-old synagogue, together with the Etz Chaim Yeshiva attached to it, to rubble.
     When Jews returned to the Jewish Quarter in 1967, a debate arose over whether to convert it into a war memorial, recreate its 19th Century appearance or rebuild the synagogue in a new design. In 1978, the Jerusalem Foundation supported the development of plans to preserve the site, including stabilization of the building’s remains and construction of a 16-meter-high stone arch that was intended to serve as a reminder of what was destroyed and a symbol of Jewish continuity. In 2006, the arch was removed as work began to recreate the synagogue’s 19th Century appearance.
     Jerusalem architect Nahum Meltzer, who proposed rebuilding the synagogue in its original Ottoman format, was given the commission. Following comprehensive historic research, the reconstruction works began in 2005. On April 15, 2008 a celebration marked the placing of the keystone in the synagogue's dome. The reconstructed Hurva was officially opened on March 15, 2010.
     For visitors to Jerusalem, the Hurva Synagogue is a “must see”. Nowadays, visitors to the rebuilt synagogue can enjoy the breathtaking 360- degree view of Jerusalem from the veranda surrounding the synagogue’s dome, admire the special beauty of its interior, view the world’s tallest Holy Ark (which contains the synagogue’s Torah scrolls) and hear the fascinating history of the Synagogue.

Shown below are pictures from Jerusalem's Hurva Syunagogue.
Hurva Synagogue

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