Bimah

Bimah

[bee-muh, bim-uh, bee-mah]
A bimah (among Ashkenazim, derived from Greek βῆμα), almemar (from Arabic al-minbar) or tebah (among Sephardim) is the elevated area or platform in a Jewish synagogue which is intended to serve the place where the person reading aloud from the Torah stands during the Torah reading service. The bimah is sometimes misdescribed asaltar or tower. The bimah was located in the center of the synagogue most likely just as the temporary wooden bimah (this is the origin of the term) was central to the "women's courtyard" of the Temple in Jerusalem during the Hakhel ceremony. While the original meaning of the word referred to the platform, the table from which the Torah scroll is read can also be referred to as the bimah, even when it is not on a platform. This later became a sign of the Orthodox synagogue in the mid-nineteenth century. The Reform (Neolog) temples moved the bimah to the front of the temple facing the congregation. One of the well-known decrees of the Chatam Sofer was that the bimah must remain in the center of an Orthodox synagogue.

The bimah is typically elevated by two or three steps, as was the bimah in the Temple. At the celebration of the Shavuot holiday when synagogues are decorated with flowers, many synagogues have special arches that they place over the bimah and adorn with floral displays. The importance of the bimah is to show that the reader is the most important at that moment in time, and to make it easier to hear their reader of the Torah. A raised bimah will typically have a railing. This was a religious requirement for safety in bimah more than 10 handbreaths high. (Somewhere between 33 and 50 inches) A lower bimah (even one step) will typically have a railing as a practical measure to prevent someone from inadvertently stepping off.



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