What are tzitzit, a yad, and a bimah?

Our Religious Diversity Journeys students got to visit Adat Shalom and Temple Israel over the last couple of weeks for a primer in Judaism. This week, the second cohort of students will visit Temple Israel. They learned that during a Sabbath (Shabbat) service, the Rabbi, who is a Jewish scholar or teacher stands on the bimah, which is the platform or podium in the synagogue from which the Torah is read. The Torah is, according to Jewish teaching, the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew scripture. The Torah is taken out of the ark, which is the holiest place in the synagogue because it contains the Torah scrolls. In most synagogues, the ark is on the Eastern wall, so that when Jews face it, they are facing Jerusalem, which is a holy city in Jewish tradition. The rabbi wears a tallit. The tallit (also pronounced tallis) is a prayer shawl, the most authentic Jewish garment. It is a rectangular-shaped piece of linen, wool, or silk (and sometimes, now, polyester) with special fringes called Tzitzit on each of the four corners. The purpose of the garment is to hold the Tzitzit which are reminders of God’s special commandments. The rabbi (or another member of the congregation) reads the Torah with the help of a yad. Literally, “hand,” is a Jewish ritual pointer, popularly known as a Torah pointer, used by the reader to follow the text during the Torah reading from the parchment Torah scrolls.