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The Location

Our historic forbears worshipped God through song and prayer and by offering animal and meal sacrifices. The locus of these sacrifices was the Bamah, the "high place."

In the early history of the Jewish people, with the advent of the reign of King David, the conception of many "high places" was abandoned for a single "high place." King Solomon, fulfilling his father's wish, built the one Temple on Mount Moriah, the site purchased by King David for his purpose. Much myth surrounds Mount Moriah. It was born and where he built an altar to God. Supposedly, Cain and Abel enacted their sacrifices there. The tale is told that this is where Noah built an altar after the flood and where Abraham tied Isaac to the altar as a sacrifice.

It is therefore fitting, not only because of the revelation to Moses on the mountain, but because of the "high place" tradition, that the third Temple Mount Sinai in El Paso's history should also be cradled in the mountains. This new religious edifice, erected high in the hills is a reminder of Judaism's happy universal message to the world and it stands as a worship center for the Jews of this desert community. Like the call to worship in our Prayer Book it commands: "Praise ye the Lord, to whom all praise is due."

The Tower

Prominent in the form of the new Temple Mount Sinai is the tower that dominates the viewer's attention as he beholds it from afar or from nearby.  It is not to be confused with the Gothic spires of the medieval churches which point to the heavns or which reach for God.

In Solomon's Temple we are told that there were two bronze pillars that stood in front of the Temple. They were even given names: Jachin and Boaz. To this day, this theme is molded into the silver breast plate that covers the Scroll of the Law housed in the Holy of Holies. Two such breastplates are to be found in the Temple Mount Sinai Ark. This theme is also accompanied by a prayer form used by the rabbi and formally gestured by the ancient priest in the "Blessing of the Priests." As this threefold benediction, beginning with "May the Lord Bless Thee and keep Thee" is uttered, the worshippers bow their heads and the rabbi extends his arms to implore God's blessings upon them.

This tower is symbolic of the rabbi's outstretched arms. Its form represents the rabbi's gesture in invoking the priestly benediction. It records in concrete God's perpetual blessings upon His "priest people."


The steel structure which supports the building, the poured cement which composes its walls, and the hewn stone which holds back the mountain also have a traditional interpretation. Through the agency of Ashamedai, Solomon acquired the shamir, which was either a worm or an exceedingly hard stone, which hewed with ease all kinds of materials that were built in the ancient Temple. Perhaps the liquid concrete prepared elsewhere, the steel structure engineered away from the site, and the stone dressed at the quarry also muted the noise of construction. For while the workmen of new Temple were not noiseless, there was a quiet present that did not seem to manifest itself in the construction of other public buildings.

Art Conceptions

Because of the prohibitions of the second commandment modern synagogues have been devoid of art interpretations in comparison to their contemporary Christians Churches. Generally speaking, in modern Europe the Synagogues or Temple took on the characteristics of the art forms which were popular at the time the building was constructed. Thus in Spain the Moorish mood prevails; in Europe the Gothic was dominant, in America the classical Greek was employed.

In 1935 the Synagogue of Dura-Eurpos (ancient caravan city on the Euphrates River in Syria) was unearthed. This Synagogue according to an Aramaic inscription on a ceiling tile was built in 245 C.E. In addition to being characteristic of third century design and its superior stage of development, a striking feature was the numerous portraits on its walls. This would lead us to believe that what is interpreted as being traditional in modern Jewish architecture, no images, had at least one notable exception and could have conceivably had other exceptions which are now buried I the debris of former civilizations.

The new Temple Mount Sinai is contemporary as were former Jewish Houses of Worship. While there are no portraits or images on its walls, Mr. Sidney Eisenshtat, its designer has moved from Greek classical lines to a creative use of sculptured cement and other modern materials to make the edifice harmonious with the present. He has used contemporary concepts to represent traditional symbols.

The Holy Vessels

The Jew is constantly alerted and sometimes admonished by the writings of his teachers to distinguish between the holy and profane, between the sanctified and the mundane. This separation is assiduously achieved in the Temple sanctuary, for it is the sanctuary that the K'lei Kodesh, the Holy vessels, reside.

On the Bima, inaccurately translated as the pulpit, are the Aron Ha-Kodesh, the Ner Tamid, and the Menorah.

The Aron Ha-Kodesh is the container of holiness. Reminiscent of the ancient ark, now moved from a horizontal position to a vertical one, it is in this consecrated container that the Scrolls of the Law and their vestments are reverently enclosed. It is a simple jeweled box which is held in the embrace of the three limbed Chupah, or canopy. This symbolic expression of the three functions of a Synagogue: a house of prayer, a house of study, and a house of fellowship, held together under the canopy, discloses the Judaic concept of unity.

The Ner Tamid, the continuous light, is symbolic of the presence of God. It is circular to represent the thought expressed in the Sabbath evening Hymn. L'cha Dodi, of the community of creation: "The last in creation simultaneous with the first in thought." The source of light is invisible, although its presence is know by the reflection on the facets of the crown. It is symbolic of Exodus XXXIII: 23, "Thou shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen."

The Menorah, the candelabrum, has cupped lights which are reflected on the branches to stimulate wicks fed by oil in its base. In its rugged torn shapes is revealed the centuries of travail which the Jew experienced in the effort to bring the light of Judaism to an indifferent and often times antagonistic world.

Throughout the Sanctuary art work the theme of the Hebrew letter, Shin, is diffused. The Shin is the first letter of the Hebrew Attribute of God whose Name is unknown to mortal man. It signifies Shaddai, Almighty. The scheme of the Shin, is artfully formed on the doors of the Holy container, the continuous Light and the lectern.

The Architect, The Artist, and the Contractors

The concept of the Temple building as created by Mr. Sidney Eisenshtat and his associates, has wedded his creative ability with a dedication to his faith of Judaism. Six days a week he is preoccupied with his vocation as an architect, but the Sabbath is observed by him in study and in prayer. Frequently, before the week day begins or before the morrow commences he engages in rabbinic investigations. It is this religious background, united with the artist, and welded to a commitment to build Houses of Worship, that has to a great extent brought this sanctuary into being.

When Solomon built his Temple he had the assistance of King Hiram of Tyre. Temple Mount Sinai has had highly competent assistance from its Phoenicians, the local architectural firm of Carroll and Daeuble.

The fashioning of the symbols in the Sanctuary is the creative work of the gifted Wiltz Harrison of Texas Western College. To fashion these religious symbols, this gifted artist exchanged the fine instruments and minute techniques of the jeweler for the blow torch and crane of the artificer. To this must be added the pride that the Robert E. Mckee and Co. has expressed in its fine craftsmanship as the actual "hewers of wood and drawers of water."

The New Temple in El Paso

The congregation of Temple Mount Sinai is proud to present to the city of El Paso its art offering of progress and its sacrifice of faith, which it hopes has multiplied the monumental beauty of this oasis in the desert.

Our Building

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Sat, June 15 2024 9 Sivan 5784