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a mizrah wall hanging

oil on canvas, 16X20. 2000 (*Private Collection)

By: Cyrus Adler, Julius H. Greenstone from www.jewishencyclopedia.com

Hebrew term denoting the rising of the sun, the east (Num. xxi. 11; Ps. I. 1); also used to designate an ornamental picture hung on the eastern wall of the house, or in front of the readingdesk in the synagogue, and applied to the row of seats in the synagogue on either side of the Ark. The custom of turning toward the east while at prayer, observed by the Jews living west of Palestine, is of great antiquity (Dan. vi. 11; comp. I Kings viii. 38; Ber. 28b; see East). The Jews of Palestine prayed with their faces turned westward (Suk. 51b). In later times opinion varied on this subject. While some of the rabbis, claiming that the Divine Presence ("Shekinah") is everywhere, maintained that it makes little difference in which direction one's face is turned in prayer, others were of the opinion that the Divine Presence is especially located in the west, and that therefore one should turn westward. R. Sheshet positively objected to the custom of praying while facing the east because the Minim prayed in that direction (B. B. 25a). The custom, however, predominated and was formulated in a baraita reading as follows: "One who is outside of Palestine should turn toward Palestine; in Palestine, toward Jerusalem; in Jerusalem, toward the Temple; and in the Temple, toward the Holy of Holies" (Ber. 30a; Yer. Ber. iv. 5).

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