This and That

Random bits of my life

Two Synagogues in Safed

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 12, 2010

Painted Synagogue Ceiling

The first two photos depict the painted ceiling of the Abuhav synagogue in Safed. Named after Rabbi Yitzhak (Isaac) Abuhav of Portugal, this building was originally built in the sixteenth century. It was twice destroyed by earthquakes, in 1759 and 1837. The current building was dedicated in 1847. The wall behind the arks is the only part of the original structure to have survived the earthquakes. The painted ceiling is decorated with musical instruments used in the Temple in Jerusalem, symbols of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and four crowns: the Torah crown, the priestly crown, the royal crown, and a crown unique to Safed, the crown of impending redemption.

Apart from its painted ceiling, the other striking feature is that the synagogue has three aron kodesh or arks for the Torah scrolls. The ark on the right side holds one of the oldest (nearly 500 years old) Torah scrolls still in use.

Both photos were taken with a 10-22mm lens. I took the photo above from the bima itself. The one below was taken near the stairs of the bima.

Painted Synagogue Ceiling

The photo below shows the carved, painted Torah ark of the Ashkenazi Ari synagogue in Safed. This synagogue, built in the sixteen century by Greek Sephardi immigrants,  is named after Rabbi Isaac Luria (the “Ari”). It was destroyed in the 1837 earthquake and rebuilt 20 years later. The ark, carved from olive wood by a Galician craftsman, shows the Eastern European influence in its design.

Painted Torah Ark

The last photo shows the inscription above the doorway of the Ari synagogue. It reads: “How awe-inspiring is this place, the synagogue of the Ari of blessed memory.”

Doorway of Ari Synagogue, Tsfat

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