Sunday, 4 October 2009

Yangon: Museah (Moseah) Yeshua Synagogue

The morning of day two in Yangon welcomed us to its busy and lively streets. Both R and I had decided to hire a driver to bring us around, so that we could cover more places in less time. We had arranged this with Ivan, a friendly guy who helps out at the Three Seasons Hotel. He had suggested us to complete the tour of Yangon that day so that we'd have the other two days to venture Thanlyin and Bago, nearby cities around Yangon. That sounded like a really good idea and we thought as long as we could take out time to enjoy each of the places, it would work out very well. Little did we know, these suggestions would turn into a fun-filled itinerary of our trip in the following days. I had thought it impossible to visit nine places in a day! R and I made sure we didn't rush through the list of places to go for each day. On this day, I realised it's completely doable to visit all of the places as Yangon is easily accessible and can be reached quickly by car.

Places visited on day two: Moseah (Musmeah) Yeshua Synagogue, Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Ngahtatgyi Paya, National Museum, Gems Museum, Kandawgyi Lake & Karaweik Hall, Bogyoke Aung San Market, SOS International Clinic and Shwedagon Paya

First on the list was Moseah (Musmeah) Yeshua Synagogue. During the day before, we've had such a hard time looking for the synagogue. Now, I can see why. Unlike churches or mosques which have grand entrances, this synagogue blended in nicely with the surrounding buildings. Had Min-U, our driver, not have any knowledge of the place, we would still be searching this "needle" in the haystack. The road to the synagogue is extremely narrow. There were vehicles parked along the side of the shops to unload goods, leaving enough room for a one-way passage. Parking, let alone waiting, was near impossible. Min-U left us at the front gate of the synagogue while he made another turn for an appropriate waiting spot.

This synagogue is such a vast difference to the one I visited in New York (Temple Emmanuel) in terms of its size, its condition and its fineness in the interior design. It may have been silly to make such a comparison with the largest synagogue in the world but it's the only other synagogue I've been to, which I can relate.

The door to the synagogue was locked. An attendant met us and we explained our purpose of visit. The person-in-charge, Samuel, was not around and the attendant had sent a person to get him but, the person in question was not available.They unlocked the main door and opened it for us to enter. The hundred year old synagogue looked vintage and well-kept. I felt a sense of sadness for this temple because it only houses up to 20 Jew people today with its many wooden benches that could have easily fit several hundreds. Perhaps, influenced by this fact, I felt the temple's emptiness. I cannot imagine going to a big church on a festive day like Christmas only to find ten people singing "Joy to the World". It is something I never grew up experiencing and if I ever do, I'd be sad.

The attendant was really kind. He brought us to the front of the temple hall where the holy book, Torah, is kept inside a beautifully crafted, metal, cylindrical box. This is an extremely sacred item of the temple and I was deeply touched that he showed it to us. Back in the States, I was greeted by angry stares and somewhat ordered around by the guards of the synagogue. This experience in Yangon is new and very welcoming to me. I examined the Torah of a century old with reverence and delight. I was overjoyed to see the aged brown parchment with its ancient writings, which of course, I do not understand. This had been completely out of my bounds back at the larger synagogue, where the Torah had been sealed in glass display boxes or placed on the altar where I was not to step foot on. Also, I am delighted to have met the attendant, who though very serious-looking, was extremely nice to talk to and he can read Hebrew. I am fascinated! Jesus speaks Hebrew! I think it is brilliant to be able to read ancient languages like Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. I've always love old things because they are precious in the way that they have seen and experience things in ages that has now been lost.

Busy Yangon streets

Colourful building selling Dulux paint in a narrow street

Torah written in Hebrew

In the middle of the temple, a podium with some seats are placed. I do not know the purpose of this because the other synagogue does not have this.

Modest but beautiful are these designs on the ceiling influenced by the Star of David

Temple gate

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