The ark, also called the Aron haKodesh or Holy Ark, contains the congregation’s Torah scrolls.
The theme of the ark’s art work was inspired by the words of the Bible that are inscribed in Hebrew and English on the side walls of the NSJC sanctuary, “This is none other than the House of God and this is the gateway to heaven.” (Genesis 28:17) This quote is taken from Jacob’s dream of a ladder set on the ground but reaching heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending, and is part of the original sanctuary design.
Looking at the ark from the bottom up is an abstract portrayal of the sleeping Jacob is outlined in wood and metal. His head rests on stone recalling the stone that he used as a pillow. Everything above this is his dream. There are ascending rays from the setting sun at the bottom and descending rays of God’s light at the top, coexisting at the same time.
Jacob’s ladder which joins the bottom of the ark to the top is twisted both literally and figuratively. It evokes an image of DNA adding an element of creation to the design. The lines at the bottom can represent the fringes of a tallit or prayer shawl. The rungs of the ladder also contain the names of the twelve sons of Jacob, the genetic links between the sleeping Jacob and a people dedicated to God.
The ladder connects the bottom of the ark where there is a symbolic earthly Jerusalem in wood, copper and genuine Jerusalem stone to the top of the ark where its heavenly counterpart is depicted as the golden Jerusalem. The top panel is done in hues of blue and green representing peace and serenity. Within the night sky the three stars symbolize the start of the Sabbath and the angel’s wings are represented in abstract curved shapes reminiscent of the letters in the written word for God. The light coming from the top left represents God’s presence and is depicted by rays of awareness and knowledge.
The geometric sefirotic symbol is a representation of God’s knowable presence in the universe. It represents the Kabbalah’s interpretation of our spiritual relationship to the world around us and to godliness. The idea of reaching toward the heavens, of a synagogue and a congregation as a gateway or a house of God, is an attractive metaphor for the serious worshipper. The symbolic ladder represents the spiritual journey on which we all travel.