Culturally Bound Practices: Jewish Symbolism Essay

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We are surrounded by symbols in our everyday lives. From traffic signs to the American Flag; from corporate logos to our alphabet, they are everywhere and we unconsciously discern much from them. Directions when driving, where to eat, how to act socially and much more are derived from these symbols. Wanting to explore religion’s use of symbols and how they are used in directing spiritual thoughts and actions I decided to investigate a Jewish worship service and the surroundings. Being unfamiliar with the faith, I would approach the situation as a participant observer, hoping for an emic view of the religion. The Jewish faith has many icons, symbols and furnishing that have great meaning to believers; these items help direct them and …show more content…
It is housed in a large wooden case built of oak about 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It has double doors, side by side, each with a large Star of David inlayed upon it. The case is called the Ark of the Covenant and is symbolic of the large box constructed of gold and acacia wood that the Ten Commandments were carried in as the Jews wandered the desert after escaping slavery by the Egyptians. The Star of David, also known as Magen David is recognized as the symbol of the Jewish people; an icon that separates them from all other religions and in this way they are recognized one to another and by the outsider. There is a light mounted above and in front of the Ark; it is the Everlasting Light, symbolizing the light of God. In the past an oil lamp was used; kept beside the Ark and replenished by the Hebrew holy men. Now it is an electric light that is continuously lit; an example of innovation. Another important piece of furnishing is the Menorah; a candelabra consisting of seven candles mounted in a row with the center one higher than the rest. It is symbolic of the sacred narrative of Hanukah. The Everlasting Light only had enough oil for one day and the holy men were desperately searching for more oil. The lamp burned for eight days; as long as it took them to find more oil; a miracle of great importance to Jews. Next is the tree of life; not a real tree, but a handmade replica made of copper and stained

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