Signs and Symbols

Have Jews used symbolism to remind them of the Temple since its destruction in 70 C.E.?

Many illuminated manuscripts of the Bible and other important Hebrew texts have included a one- or two-page spread depicting the various implements or ritual objects once used in the Temple. These pages show all of the more portable items mentioned in the text of Exodus 25–30. They include, among other things, the tablets of the Law, the menorah, the table supporting the containers of the twelve loaves of sacred bread, a bronze “laver” used for ceremonial purification, the ram’s horn (shofar), and the incense burner. Decorative panels or hangings, called mizrach (or “east” since they are hung on a home’s eastern wall toward Jerusalem), also frequently depict a building meant to be the Jerusalem Temple. Sometimes these hangings show Temple implements rather than the building itself. The mizrach is a reminder not only of the ancient Temple, but of the holy city of Jerusalem, toward which Jews turn when they pray. Another ritual object that often uses imagery of the Temple is the Hanukkah lamp. Though some lamps look very much like the standard seven-branch menorah, many take the form of a small architectural design that can be either hung on the wall or set on a table. The architectural imagery sometimes depicts the back interior wall of a synagogue, with its Ark flanked by two pillars meant to recall the two pillars of the Temple representing Boaz and Jachin. Sometimes the Hanukkah lamp bears an elaborate architectural facade, the metalsmith’s version of what the Temple looked like.


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