Household Gods

I was wondering why the new synagogue in Munich is called Ohel Jakob, “Jacob’s Tent”. Perhaps, with some stretch of the imagination, you could say the upper dome resembles a tent. And what about Jacob? Since I am shamefully ignorant of the stories in the bible, I decided to read up on Jacob and the tent. Here is the story in a tiny nutshell.

The story of Rachel and Jacob’s love and marriage is a good one. In the end, after something like 20 years of intrigue and deception between Jacob and Rachel’s father, Jacob and his wives set out on their own. At this point and unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel decides to steal the small figurines that represent the protective deities of her father’s family, the teraphim or houshold gods.

This is where the tent comes in. Laban, Rachel’s father, misses the teraphim and searches Jacob’s tent – but does not find what he is looking for since Rachel successfully conceals the stolen goods.

The location of the synagogue is St. Jacob’s Square. The name appears in Munich’s annals as early as 1310 so it isn’t far-fetched to include the name Jacob. But is the story of Jacob and the tent intended as some kind of parable for Munich’s synagogue? And if so, what is it supposed to illustrate? Does it mean the teraphim are protected?

By the way, I like the architecture, even if it doesn’t look like a tent to me. (Click the image for an enlarged, higher resolution version.)

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