Temple Emanuel Ark Doors

TE ArkThe beautiful doors to the Temple Emanuel ark were created in 1988.  The artist, Candy Knapp, collaborated with Rabbi Jerry Brieger to create the meaningful and interesting design.  The project was brought together by Rise Siegel.

On the upper left corner of the doors is the tablet of the 10 Commandments.  In the lower right corner is the Burning Bush.  According to the artist the waves and swirls are meant to represent the “dynamic power of the moment.”

Looking at the 10 Commandments one may see rays.  This was used by the sculptor to symbolize the light of G-d.  Across the middle of the doors is a blue band.  The sculptor suggests that it may be the parting of the Red Sea or a generalized barrier that must be crossed.  As this barrier is between the tablets and the burning bush, it suggests that the presence of G-d is everywhere and that barriers are just something that we must overcome in life.  All the wavy lines are the dynamic energy swirling around this interaction with the earthly and the divine.

The doors are not carved out of one piece of wood but rather are built up by adding strips to create depth and texture.

The letters on the door were suggested by Rabbi Brieger.  There are ten letters signifying the ten commandments.  The Alef and Bet on the tablet represents the 10 commandments.  Starting with the Bet and reading left we have bet, resh, alef, shin and tav or Bereshit, the first word of the Torah (in the beginning.)  If we stop at bet, resh, alef we have G-d created.

Starting with the Alef and moving to the right we have alef, nun, kof and yud, Anochi, the first word of the 10 Commandments (I am).  If you pair the yud with the next letter, yud you have Adonai or G-d, hence I am G-d.

Look at the tablet, the highest letter is alef.  The lowest letter on the door is tav.  The two letters paired together are A to Z, symbolizing the whole alphabet, the entire Torah – everything.

There has been some speculation as to the meaning and placement of the letters on the door.  As mentioned above the letters probably represent individual commandments.  The top five would be the commands that deal with G-d (I am the Lord, you shall have no other G-ds, do not take the Lord’s name in vain, remember the Sabbath and honor father and mother.)  The bottom five would be directed at man and how to live in a community (do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness and do not covet.)

It has been suggested that perhaps there is fish or a whale on the door.  Another suggestion is the arm of G-d.  While I don’t see the areas in that light it adds another interesting dimension to the symbolism and the message of our doors.

Interpretation of the message of the doors can take on deeper meanings “the colors on the doors – blue on the upper half, red on the lower may tell a story.  On the 2nd day of creation G-d made an expanse of water, separating the expanse into an upper level and a lower level.  He called the expanse ‘shamayim’ – sky or heavens.  On the 3rd day G-d created land – the waters beneath the sky were collected so that dry ground could be revealed.  The blue on the ark doors are sharply defined (divisions of the heavens and the waters beneath) with streaks of red running through the lower part of the doors.  The Hebrew word for earth is Adamah.  The Hebrew word for clay (which man was constructed from) is Adahm.  The Hebrew word for blood is Dahm.  The first man was Adam and the word for red is Adom.”  Thus the words man, Adam, clay, earth, blood and red all are related through the same root.  This could mean that the top of the ark is representative of the heavens and the source of the divine.  The red of the lower portion can be representative of our earthly origin as man was essentially created when he was formed from the clay of the earth and then had life breathed into his being by G-d.

Rabbi Brieger once said that the doors called to him, that they moved and changed meanings at different times.  There is so much in them that each of us can find meaning for ourselves.

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