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Aron Kodesh

About the Aron Kodesh

The visual theme for the Aron Kodesh is inspired by the gates referred to in Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28:10-17), in which Jacob lays down to rest on a stone in the desert and envisions a ladder to the heavens on which angels are ascending and descending. Upon awakening, Jacob declares:

מַה־נּוֹרָ֖א הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה אֵ֣ין זֶ֗ה כִּ֚י אִם־בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְזֶ֖ה שַׁ֥עַר הַשָּׁמָֽיִם

 “How awesome is this place. It is none other than the abode of God,

and that is the gateway to heaven.”

Images of gates to Holiness have a special resonance for Congregation Shaarei Kodesh, as embodied in the name of the synagogue itself.  The visual images in this Aron design are intended to reflect the elements of Jacob’s dream and to invite the viewer to experience the elevated feeling of being in a Holy place. 

In its multi-purpose setting, the imagery of the Aron emerges in layers of meaning.  When the room is being used for a function other than services, the walnut-paneled structure contains a hint of its Holy function:  the sliding doors leading to the Torah compartment are framed by carvings of natural botanical forms climbing skyward in a double helix pattern emulating the structure of human DNA, suggesting that it is not only angels but we ourselves who can hope to ascend to heights of spiritual awareness.  Rising from a stone-like slab suggestive of Jacob’s resting place, the botanical forms form a gateway to the Aron.

The sliding doors themselves contain Jacob’s declaration, in Hebrew letters that ascend and descend through a heavenly cosmos in the manner suggestive of the ladders in Jacob’s dream.  The natural wood background of unique spotted elm burl veneer further enhances the sense of moving through a boundless Universe.

When services are being conducted in the sanctuary, the outer sliding doors of the Aron are retracted, revealing an inviting, relief-carved pastoral scene in which congregants are welcomed by open gates.  The pathway suggests that Holiness is a spiritual path rather than a fixed destination.  The gates contain a further Hebrew quote from Jacob’s dream that says:

אָכֵן֙ יֵ֣שׁ יְהֹוָ֔ה בַּמָּק֖וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וְאָנֹכִ֖י לֹ֥א יָדָֽעְתִּי

“Surely God is in this place, and I did not know it”.

The sky above the scene is a backlit stained glass panel that functions as an always-illuminated Eternal Light (Ner Tamid) for the Aron, even when it is covered by the outer doors. When it is time for the Torah service, the inner sliding doors retract to either side, revealing the Torah compartment and the full stained glass Ner Tamid panel.  A cloud formation that echoes the Ner Tamid  is projected onto the ceiling above the Aron as a clue to the layers of meaning contained within the Aron.

It has been an honor to work with Rabbi David Baum and the Congregation to develop the visual imagery reflected in the Aron and in the gate-themed accessory furnishings, all of which are designed to echo the many spiritual openings to Holiness that can be accessed at Congregation Shaarei Kodesh.




Sun, June 16 2024 10 Sivan 5784