Your Center

Parshat Terumah

If you have ever visited any of the older synagogues in Europe, then one of the main differences that you notice is that the Bimah is in the center of the synagogue. Bimahs were moved to the front of the synagogue in the beginning of the modern period, but the Halacha is that they should be in the center.

Why? In this week’s parsha we read about the construction of the Mishkan, the portable temple-tent in the desert, and various holy objects placed inside of it. Including the ark, the table, the Menorah, and two altars. The ark was placed in the smaller room of the tent called the Holy of Holies, while the Menorah, the table and the smaller incense altar were placed in the larger room called the Holy. The larger altar was placed in the center of the courtyard, outside the tent. The Torah specifically says that the Menorah goes on the south side of the room, facing the table on the north side, and the small altar goes on east side, in the middle of them. It is from here that the Rambam says that it is Halacha, Jewish law, that the bimah goes in the center, but he doesn’t say why.

Rabbi Moshe Schreiber, better known as the Chatam Sofer, explains that the sacrifices atoned for sins, while today we have prayer and reading from the Torah to do that. So if the place where the sacrifices happened, the altar, was in the center, then the place where the prayers are lead and Torah reading takes place should be in the center as well. Atonement, prayer, comes from the center and moves outward, like the heart pumping blood to the arms, legs, and head. We begin with our core and it strengthens everything else. So what is at your core, or what do you need to do to strengthen your core?

Shabbat Shalom,
Rav Sela

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