What does the word Bimah mean in Hebrew?
The bimah is the raised platform with a reading desk found in the sanctuary of a synagogue from which the Torah is read. Clergy members such as the rabbi and cantor will stand on the bimah behind a podium to lead services and deliver sermons since it’s situated so that the reader faces toward the congregation. Some communities conduct the entire service from the bimah meaning that all of the blessings and prayers are chanted from the raised platform. In many synagogues, the president, clergy, Bar and Bat Mitzvah families, and other honored guests might even sit on chairs on the bimah during services. The surface of the bimah is slightly slanted, making for easy reading of the Torah and Haftarah during the Sabbath and festivals.
The bimah is located in front of the Ark – the cabinet in which the Torah scrolls are stored. At certain times during the service, the congregants and clergy on the bimah will stand and face the ark to pray. The Ner Tamid lamp, which represents eternal light, traditionally hangs above the Ark.
The bimah used to be in the center of the synagogue, and is still positioned there in many Sephardic and Orthodox Ashkenazi synagogues. Maimonides and other scholars from the Middle Ages believed this to be the “proper” location. However, this placement causes the attention of the congregation to be divided between the bimah and the Ark.
How do you pronounce the word Bimah?
The word is pronounced Bee-Mah like the yellow and black flying insect that makes honey and can sting you plus the casual name that you might call your mother or mom.
How do you write the word Bimah in Hebrew?
Are there any other Hebrew words like bimah that you would like to learn more about? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out these other posts on the BMA blog: