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Open AccessArticle

Between Yerushalayim DeLita and Jerusalem—The Memorial Inscription from the Bimah of the Great Synagogue of Vilna

Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem 91004, Israel
Received: 19 February 2020 / Revised: 17 March 2020 / Accepted: 18 March 2020 / Published: 1 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
During excavations of the bimah (the platform for reading the Torah) of the 17th-century Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius, Lithuania), an important memorial inscription was exposed. This paper describes the new finds associated with the baroque-rococo architecture of the bimah and focuses on the inscription and its meaning. The Hebrew inscription, engraved on a large stone slab, is a complex rabbinic text filled with biblical allusions, symbolism, gematria, and abbreviations. The text describes the donation of a Torah reading table in 1796 in honour of R. Ḥayim ben Ḥayim and of Sarah by their sons, R. Eliezer and Shmuel. The inscription notes the aliyah (emigration) of Ḥayim and Sarah to Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel. The interpretation of the inscription shows the use of multiple messianic motifs. Historical analysis identifies the involvement of the Vilna community with the support of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Ottoman Palestine) and the aliyah of senior scholars and community leaders at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Amongst these figures were Ḥayim ben Ḥayim and Sarah, with Ḥayim ben Ḥayim going on to represent the Vilna community in the Land of Israel as its emissary, distributing charitable donations to the scholarly Ashkenazi community resident in Tiberias, Safed, and later Jerusalem. View Full-Text
Keywords: Vilna/Vilnius; synagogue; bimah; inscription; Jerusalem; aliyah Vilna/Vilnius; synagogue; bimah; inscription; Jerusalem; aliyah
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Seligman, J. Between Yerushalayim DeLita and Jerusalem—The Memorial Inscription from the Bimah of the Great Synagogue of Vilna. Arts 2020, 9, 46.

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