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What does the word 'synagogue' mean and how did synagogues come into being?
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i) What does the word 'synagogue' mean and how did synagogues come into being?
The word synagogue is derived from a Greek word 'synagein', meaning 'to gather together'. Originally it referred to the assembling of people, and then to the place where they gathered, but today a synagogue is a community centre with several different purposes. The synagogue is a multi-purpose building and so there are various other terms used, including Hebrew Bet Haknesset, meaning 'house of assembly', Bet Hatephilah, meaning 'house of prayer and Bet Hamidrash, meaning 'house of study'. Orthodox Jews often use the word 'shul', derived from the German 'schule' meaning school. This is because a primary function of the synagogue is learning.
Many Progressive Jews will use the word 'temple', because they consider all their places of worship to be equivalent to, or representative of, the Temple. However this is offensive to many traditional Jews as they see it as slighting to the Temple. The synagogue has so many functions that it is impossible to define it with just one word, hence the several different names. However the overall purpose of all synagogues is to worship God, though a synagogue cannot contain God,
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