Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Aron Kodesh and Ceiling

Previous posts:

Part I: From Belz to Eretz Israel
Part II: The Rebuilding Belz
Part III: Going into the Sanctuary

In one of the final acts of building the shul, the Rebbe carefully dictated the instructions on every aspect of building the aron kodesh, the holy ark, in which the Torah scrolls are stored. The aron kodesh itself is precisely to scale of one of the smaller of the thirteen gates which led to the Beit Mikdash, the Holy Temple, at the time of the Roman occupation.

The aron kodesh

Carvings decorate the Aron Kodesh, which has room for 70 torah scrolls.

Near the end of construction, the Rebbe returned to the building where he had hidden the surviving stones smuggled from the original Shtiebel back in Belz, Ukraine. These bricks were used to build the new aron kodesh. The rebbe himself personally built the steps leading to the aron kodesh.

Note how the steps lead out sideways from the aron kodesh. This allows one to walk away with the aron kodesh on his side, preventing one from accidentally turning one's back on the aron kodesh and the Torahs within.

On either side of the aron kodesh stands a four-branched menorah. Belzer Hassidim have a minhag to light four candles for shabbat, representing the four-letter ineffable name of God.

On Yom Tov (holidays) the menorah on the other side is also lit, for a total of eight candles.

Yours truly, in front of the shtender, menorah, and aron kodesh.

"The tribes of God are always before me."

Branches of the menorah, and carvings on the aron kodesh.

Looking up the edge of the aron kodesh.

The ceiling has been painted blue, the color of the sky. This is because of a dictum that if one becomes confused in prayer, one should look upward at the sky. The blue color will remind one of the royal kingdom above. Each indentation in the ceiling has three levels, representing the three upper sephirot, the divine characteristics.

The chandeliers can be lowered to floor level by hydraulic cable. Even then, to change the 112 bulbs and 96 spotlights in each requires very large ladder. The chandeliers, like the walls and ceiling, are acoustically designed to reflect sound back town towards the floor level. The middle chandelier sits lower than the rest, directly over the head of the baal koreh (Torah reader) on the bemah, in order to reflect the sound outwards to those sitting on the floor level.

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