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Why is There a Curtain Covering the Ark in my Synagogue?

Why is There a Curtain Covering the Ark in my Synagogue?

The parochet on the aron kodesh

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Nachum Gutman/ Yeshiva University Museum
Nachum Gutman/ Yeshiva University Museum

Ever wondered why the ark in your synagogue has two coverings – a door and a curtain?

The first mention of the concept of the curtain is found in the Talmud.1 Today this curtain is called the parochet (Heb. פרוכת).

The ark, known as the aron kodesh (Heb. ארון קודש), is considered one of the holiest components of the synagogue; the actual Torah scrolls which are kept inside the ark are the holiest.2

In the Holy Temple in Jerusalem there was a curtain separating the “Holy” chamber and the “Holy of Holies” chamber. “And you shall place the table3 on the outer side of the dividing curtain…”4

The curtain in the Temple was not used to separate the rooms; there was a stone wall for that.5 The curtain, explains Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi, was a sign of modesty and respect for the Holy Ark which was kept in the Holy of Holies.6

The same is true for the ark in the synagogue. The Torahs are wrapped in individual coverings, the ark has a door, and we add an extra curtain as a sign of modesty and respect for the holy scrolls.7

Clearly, the custom of covering the ark with a curtain is important and meaningful. Synagogues worldwide have followed this custom for thousands of years. A curtain should always remain outside the ark as a sign of respect for the Torah scrolls inside.8

See the Synagogue Companion.

Footnotes
1.

The Talmud Megillah 26b and Tosfot, s.v.“Meireish.” See the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, Shaarei Halacha Uminhag, vol. 1, p. 198, who notes that the Tosafists and Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Rashi, (in s.v. “Tashmish Detashmish”) are not arguing about the existence of the curtain. They are debating if the curtain inside the Ark is sacred.

2.

See Shulchan Aruch 153:2.

3.

Known as the shulchan.

5.

When the Ark was in the first Holy Temple there was actually a stone wall separating the rooms.

6.

Rashi on the Talmud, Menachot 98a, s.v. “Baparochet.” See also the Talmud Ketuvot 106a.

7.

Rabbi Israel ben Petachya Isserlin, Terumat Hadashen, vol. 1, response 68.

8.

See the Rebbe ibid.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Anonymous toronto February 10, 2015

Ark of Covenant The Ark of Covenant represents a Torah scholar . Reply

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