The Torah:

The Torah is the holy text used in the Jewish faith and is also commonly known by other religions as the ‘First Testament’. The word ‘Torah’ means ‘teaching’. Many words of holy texts, people, customs, foods and others have been transliterated commonly into English and used in everyday speech in Jewish communities. Every Torah is different in the way it looks due to each one being made of parchment from a kosher animal, usually a cow. It is written by a Torah writer called a ‘Sofer’. The writing inside the Torah is in the ancient dialect of the modern Hebrew, known as Aramaic. Aramaic is written in the same alphabet as Hebrew, but with some differences in vocabulary. It is interesting to note that Hebrew is one of the only languages to have completely become extinct and then revived to be spoken as an official language today.

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Torah Scroll

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Close-up of text in a Torah

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Torah Scrolls in an Arc

 

Symbols:

There are several common symbols found around the Sephardi Synagogue. The most common symbol is the Star of David, also known as the ‘Magen David’ which means the protector of David. This comes from the biblical story of David and his shield with the star of David symbol on it. The symbol of the seven-branched candle sticks can be seen around the synagogue as well, as is showcased in most of the images provided. The candlesticks are called a ‘menorah’ which translates to ‘lamp’ in English. The ‘menorah’ is the emblem on the coat of arms of Israel and in the history of Jews has always been a symbol of the light of Jerusalem.

It is interesting to note that many ornamental or decorative things found in many synagogues are in fact not words but symbols. This, I believe this is since Jews may come to a Synagogue from anywhere in the world and may recognise symbols above words. The words which can be found along the walls and outer walls in Hebrew are all excerpts from holy texts denoting the holy nature of the site rather than instructing people on matters such as where the bathrooms are, not to smoke, directions, etc.

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The Arc for the Torah – with symbols on writings

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Magen David and Menorah on stained glass

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Image of a Menorah on the outside wall of the Synagogue

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Wooden Menorah underneath the table where the Rabbi places the Torah when he is reading to the congregation

Signs:

Signs found around the outside of the Synagogue were almost all in Hebrew, except for some in English explaining directions of how to get into the premises or how to lock the doors. It appears that due to the Synagogue being in Sydney Australia, even though most the congregation speaks Hebrew, the board has made the decision to make the instructional signs in English alone.

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Translated from Hebrew: “Sephardi Synagogue of the State of Israel”

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(unclear, but this sign states “please shut the gate” in English)

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Translated from Hebrew: “This is the gate to God”

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Translated from Hebrew: “they made a temple and I dwell in it”

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Sign in English stating that the premises is patrolled and manned by security guards.

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Tamar Hoffman

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