Posted by / Wednesday 22 March 2017 / No comments

The Synagogue

The Synagogue is a reference to the building in which the Jews meet, to worship God, wherever they found themselves outside Jerusalem. In earlier days, however, a synagogue literally referred to an assembly, not necessarily a building.

Its origin has been traced to the time when the Jews were in exile in Babylon after Jerusalem was conquered. The Temple of Jerusalem could not be transported along to exile so they decided to meet anyway and wherever they met was called synagogue. Till this day, wherever Jews found themselves outside Jerusalem, they found a meeting or worship place which they referred to as the synagogue.

Every Synagogue was specially positioned on the highest point of the town and was made to face Jerusalem. Whatever the Temple represented in Jerusalem, the Synagogue did same for those in exile or in dispersion. The only thing that was not allowed is for sacrifices to be made in the Synagogue.

At the beginning of worship was an invitation to prayer. This was followed by the chanting of Psalms and hymns. After this a passage was read from the Law and the Prophets. Then there followed the preaching of the word. Sometimes it was just an address by a distinguished person from the community or by a visitor who was attending worship with them, mostly for the first time. The last thing to happen was the giving of the Aaronic benediction.

It served as a court
One of the functions of the Synagogue was to try minor cases that were brought before it. These were cases that involved the breaking of Jewish laws. Some of the punishments meted out included fines, scourging and or excommunication from the society.

Collection point for Temple Tributes
It was the function of the synagogue to collect the Temple Tributes which were then transmitted to Jerusalem. This tax was collected annually.

As a school
The synagogue serves also as a school. There, there were regular tuition on the law and other religious matters of importance. On many occasions, Jesus was found in the synagogue teaching. He, for example, taught in the synagogue in Capernaum and in Nazareth.

As a social centre
The synagogue served as a meeting place for the Jews. They met here to discuss issues that affected their own welfare.

Contact point for Jews and Gentiles
The synagogue also was a place Jews and gentiles could easily meet and fraternize. The gentiles who were converted to the Judaism were allowed to worship in the synagogues. This created an easy arena for them to meet their Jewish counterparts.

As a place of healing
The synagogue was also important, because it was a place where people received healing from their sicknesses. Jesus healed many people in synagogues in Galilee. Jesus, for example, healed the man with the withered hand and the woman with the spirit of infirmity in a synagogue.

1. a. Write a short introduction on the synagogue.
    b. Indicate four ways in which the Synagogue is important in the life of the Jew.

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