What is a ‘Little Temple’?

In Judaism, the status of the synagogue is like a ‘little Temple’ (‘Mikdash Me’at’  {מקדש מעט} in Hebrew) and it means, among other things, that the synagogue shares some of the symbolism and costumes that were common in the Temple in Jerusalem.

When attending a service at the synagogue it is customary to wear our very nicest clothes – similar to a visit in church – and the reason for this is obviously very logical.

But there is another reason for dressing nicely and this reason can be found in our weekly Torah portion:

“And the priest shall put on his linen garment and put his linen undergarment on his body, and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and put them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.” (Leviticus 6:10-12)

In other words, the Priest (‘Kohen’ {כהן} in Hebrew) must change his sacred garments when he leaves the area of the Holy Tabernacle. From this behavior and example we learned the lesson of ‘wearing our best clothes’ when visiting the house of God