05 May 2023

End of week reflections
on Biblical passages in
an exhibition in Prague

Biblical passage on display in the Jewish Ceremonial Hall in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout this week, in my prayer diary on my blog each morning my reflections have been drawing on my visits last month to the synagogues of Prague: the Old-New Synagogue, the High Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue, the Klausen Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue and the Pinkas Synagogue, and concluding tomorrow morning with the Jerusalem Synagogue.

The ticket system in the Jewish Museum also encourages people to visit the Ceremonial Hall, beside the Klausen Synagogue, where the exhibition looks at Jewish burial customs and the topic of the end of life.

The Jewish Ceremonial Hall was designed by the architect J Gerstl for the Jewish Burial Society, Hevrah Kaddishah, and was built in the neo-Romanesque style in 1906-1908.

The ceremonial hall is at the entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery, founded in the early 15th century and one of the oldest and best-preserved Jewish cemeteries in Europe. There are about 12,000 tombstones in the cemetery, but the number of burials is far higher. Burials there ended in 1787.

On this Friday evening, at the end of the week rather than the end of life, I find myself reflecting on some of the Biblical passages I found displayed in the exhibition rooms of the Jewish Ceremonial Hall:

The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ And to him he said, ‘See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you in festal apparel.’ (Zechariah 3: 4)

A garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon. (Song of Songs 4: 15)

Once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgement and by a spirit of burning. (Isaiah 4: 4)

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (Ezekiel 36: 25)

His head is the finest gold;
his locks are wavy,
black as a raven.
His eyes are like doves
beside springs of water,
bathed in milk,
fitly set.
His cheeks are like beds of spices,
yielding fragrance.
His lips are lilies,
distilling liquid myrrh.
His arms are rounded gold,
set with jewels.
His body is ivory work,
encrusted with sapphires.
His legs are alabaster columns,
set upon bases of gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
choice as the cedars.
His speech is most sweet,
and he is altogether desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem. (Song of Songs 5: 11-16)

O hope of Israel,
its saviour in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
like a traveller turning aside for the night? (Jeremiah 14: 8)

Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11: 44)

No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper,
and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgement.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication from me, says the Lord. (Isaiah 54: 17)

Shabbat Shalom

The Jewish Ceremonial Hall at the entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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