From the Desk - Facing the Ark and Jerusalem
Another very successful week at Congregation Beth Ora! On Sunday, we welcomed many children and their parents to the synagogue for a special program (see pic below). We took the children to the Sanctuary to hear a beautiful story before treating them to a hot dog supper.
The second session of our Shul for Dummies series was also very successful (see pic below). It was great to discuss questions about Jewish practice with such a large audience. Thank you to Jack Dym for organizing.
We look forward to the murder mystery evening, the Sisterhood event on 'How to Have Fun with Cancer', the bazaar and all the other great Beth Ora events. In the meantime, we wish you Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami Knopf
What's the Deal with..Facing the Ark and Facing Jerusalem? Some of the pews in the Sanctuary (those in the wings rather than the center) are positioned such that, if you face the Ark during prayer, you are not facing Jerusalem. Those sitting in those pews can either face the Ark or Jerusalem, but not both. So Hershy Caplan asked: What's the deal? In answering this question, I am indebted to an article by Rabbi Yaakov Meidan. The Talmud presents different opinions as to which way to face whilst saying the Amidah prayer. One view is that one should face Jerusalem, based King Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the First Temple: 'They should pray to God towards Your chosen city.' Elsewhere, four different views are offered as to which way to face: (i) any direction because the Divine Presence is everywhere; (ii) toward the west because the Divine Presence is in the west; (iii) towards the north if one wants to become wealthy; (iv) towards the south if one wants to become wise. Because of these differing opinions, there are also different viewpoints among the post-Talmudic halachic authorities. But the bulk of halachic authorities rule one should face Jerusalem during prayer. According to that opinion, how precisely does one have to point in that direction? Some authorities say it's enough that those in the Diaspora face toward Israel. Some even say that there is no need to perfectly align oneself toward Israel, getting the rough general direction is sufficient. Yet other authorities write one should strive for as much precision as possible. What about facing the Ark? Interestingly, there may be no halachic source mandating prayer toward the Ark though there are those who write that one should not pray with one's back toward the Ark. Most hold that this prohibition takes precedence over the obligation to pray toward Jerusalem. In other words, it is better not to pray towards Jerusalem if that results in one's back facing the Ark. This would not seem to be the case in our Sanctuary. Therefore, it is good practice for those on the sides and in the wings to pray east toward Jerusalem rather than facing the Ark directly. At the same time, we have seen that there is a variety of opinions on this question so those who wish to face the Ark directly have grounds for their practice.