For my field trip to another religion’s worship service, I chose to visit the Beth El Congregation Synagogue in Baltimore, Maryland. I have family members that are a part of the Jewish community, but I had never attended service with them until this experience. The Bel El Congregation is a progressive synagogue that is affiliated with United Synagogue. I arrived early to see if I could find someone to show me around so I felt more acquainted with the happenings around me. Lucky for me, there was a kind woman who acted as the synagogue’s receptionist for this particular Friday. She was nice enough to to give me a short tour as well as a little information on synagogues before the service started.
She began by explaining there are three major things every synagogue needs in order to be considered one. The first is the Holy Arc, which is the cabinet that enshrines the Torah scrolls. In the Beth El Congregation Synagogue there are four scrolls in the Holy Arc, but she explained that some have more or less. The second item all synagogues must have is the Eternal Flame, which is the sanctuary lamp and altar lamp. These are lights that shall burn continuously day and night. The woman explained the third and final thing all synagogues need is the seven branched candelabrum, also known as a Menorah. This is used during ceremonies to symbolize the seven days of creation. One thing that the woman explained to me that I did not know was the fact that any place could be known as a synagogue from a tent to a castle as long as it contained the three items listed above.
There were also items in the Beth El synagogue that not all need. Synagogues usually have a separate place for the candles included with the Menorah. These are lit at the beginning of the service on Fridays in honor of the Sabbath. Another feature of this synagogue is the listing of the Ten Commandments. In this, each line contains only the first two words of each commandment. The Shofar or ram ’s horn...
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