Temple vs synagogue

What is the difference between temple Judaism and Synagogue Judaism? (I posted this in Great Debates because of the religion factor, but it is not a debate, just a question)

The ocean of liquor, I drank to forget her, is gonna kill me, but I’ll drink till then.- George Jones Still Doin Time

I never heard those phrases before. Perhaps what you meant was “In Judaism, what is the difference between a Temple and a Synagogue?”

If that’s what you meant, then my answer is this: Basically, “Temple” refers to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, where sacrifices were performed and which was destroyed about 1930 years ago; “Synagogue” refers to the buildings used since then, for prayer and other purposes, but not for sacrifice. In modern times, many synagogues have adopted the name “Temple” in memory of the Solomon’s original Temple.

I’d like to amend Keeves’ answer slightly, as follows:

Basically, “Temple” refers to the Temple(s) in Jerusalem, where sacrifices were performed. The First Temple, built by Solomon, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC (as described in the book of Jeremiah and other Biblical books); the Second Temple was rebuilt during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (and described in the Bible) in about 520 - 515 BC. The Second Temple stood in Jerusalem, was magnificently embellished by Herod the Great, and then destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The term “synagogue” refers to the buildings used, for prayer and other purposes, but not for sacrifice. There were synagogues in existence while the Second Temple was still standing, but their popularity as a local house of worship and study increased greatly after the destruction of the Temple.

In modern times, many Reform synagogues have adopted the name “Temple” in memory of the original Temple(s) in Jerusalem. Conservative and Orthodox Judaism would not use the word “temple” to refer to their synagogues, reserving that word for the historic Temple(s), and in line with the tradition that the Third Temple will be build in Jerusalem when the Messianic Age arrives.

Thus, some people use the term “temple” Judaism vs “synagogue” Judaism to refer to the difference between Reform and Orthodox/Conservative branches of Judaism.

Thank you both very much, can you define RUACH for me, and or tell me what the Code of Holiness

The ocean of liquor, I drank to forget her, is gonna kill me, but I’ll drink till then.- George Jones Still Doin Time

Scratch Ruach, I think it means the breath of God. But I still don’t know what the Code of Holiness is. I know what the Holy of Holies is, but not the Code of Holiness

The ocean of liquor, I drank to forget her, is gonna kill me, but I’ll drink till then.- George Jones Still Doin Time

First, a minor correction to Dex’s post:

There are a number of Conservative synagogues with ‘Temple’ in their name. I had my bar mitzvah at Temple Beth El in Birmingham, Alabama, in fact. I think this is more common among older congregations, since the Conservative movement was a right-leaning split off from Reform (as a opposed to a left-leaning split off from Orthodoxy), and may have adopted Reform synagogue-naming customs at the time. I agree that it is rare, in my experience, to hear younger (under 50) Conservative Jews using ‘Temple’ to refer to the synagogue. In fact, the Yiddish word shul is in quite common use in our present congregation (Boulder, Colorado).

Not sure about the Code of Holiness. One could argue that Jewish Law as a whole is a code of holiness, that concerns itself largely with making distinctions between the sacred and the profane. Jewish Law makes this distinction about everything: food (kosher vs. non-kosher), clothing (modest vs immodest, shaatnez(don’t ask) vs whatever-the-opposite-is?), shelter (buildings may become (ritually) ‘impure’ due to certain kinds of rot; laws of sukkah building), time (Sabbath vs the rest of the week), etc. There are many compilations of practical halacha (Jewish Laws) and commentary, perhaps one of these is titled the Hebrew equivalent of Code of Holiness?

As far as ruach is concerned, I am most familiar with the term Ruach haKodesh, which is (in my limited Hebrew vocabulary) translated as The Holy Breath or The Holy Spirit.

Any particular reason for these questions? Sometimes context can help others figure out what information would be most useful to you.


I had never heard the phrase “holiness code” so I did a web search. I turned up quite a few hits, each stating that the Holiness Code was embodied in Leviticus, Chapters 17 - 26. (One site narrowed it to 17:1 - 26:2.) I never did see an explanation; the sentences usually said “these chapters are known as ~” with no further explanation. After eight I gave up.

For whatever its worth (which may be pure coincidence) each of the first eight sites I glanced at were dealing with Lv 18:22–the verse generally recognized as providing the strongest prohibition against the male homosexual act. Of course, if each of those sites had borrowed from a single originating site, the “large number” of sites saying the same thing would, indeed, be coincidence.


Thanks for the correction, Rick, I should have said “generally” Conservative synagogues do not name themselves “temple”… there are a few exceptions. I am not aware of any Orthodox congregation that would be called “temple.”

I have heard the terms “temple” Judaism vs “synagogue” or “shul” Judaism used to refer to Reform vs Orthodox/Conservative, which was the OP’s inquiry.

The Hebrew word “ruach” is interesting, it means spirit, breath, or wind. The poetic line in Genesis 1, the “ruach of God hovers over the waters” has been translated in various ways. To the ancient Hebrews, breath and spirit were closely related – when breath stops, the person dies, the spirit leaves (and, according to some, the spirit leaves the body with the last breath.) It makes for a nice poetic imagery, although a bit hard for modern translators who want to be precise rather than poetic. (Note: ruach is spirit, not soul [nefesh])

I will check on the Holiness Code when I get home tonight and have some sources at hand. I think it’s just a short-hand reference to that section of the Bible, describing the rules for holiness, but I’ll check and get back to you.

Darnit, I was gonna correct Dex first! :slight_smile: The Conservative congregation here is at Temple Israel.

That said, I was once on the receiving end of a very cold correction. I was married at at Conservative/Orthodox synagogue. I made the mistake of calling it a “temple” to the secretary when calling about one thing or another, and she coldly corrected me, noting they were not a temple, but a conservative congregation! Yeesh.

OK, take a deep breath and get out your Hebrew lexicons.

Chapters 17 - 26 of Leviticus are a distinct unit of the Bible, with a unique writing style: the dominant theme being holiness. The section was called the “Holiness Code” by A. Klosterman in 1877. The central idea of the Holiness Code is that the people of Israel bears a collective responsibility to try to achieve holiness (Lev 19:2 “You shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”)

If that’s enough of an answer, I suggest you stop reading now.

The concept is that of a holy people, and the laws are addressed to all of Israel, not only to Moses or Aaron or the priesthood. The Holiness Code covers:
Chapter 17 - Prologue; on proper modes of worship
Chapter 18 - Rules of forbidden sexual unions (abominations)
Chapter 19 - Code of religious and secular laws pertaining to the land (agriculture, testimony, social ethics, etc.)
Chapter 20 - A legally formulated restatement of Chapter 18, with some additions
Chapter 21:1 - 22:16 - Rules governing the priesthood in matters of marriae, ritual purity, etc
Chapter 22:17 - 33 - Requirements for sacrificial animals
Chapter 23 - Liturgical calendar of sacred occasions
Chapter 24 - Laws about ritual and blasphemy
Chapter 25:1 - 26:2 - Laws governing agriculture and ownership of the land
Chapter 26:3 - 46: Epilog, blessings and curses

The Biblical concept of “holiness” is hard to define: it’s a mysterious quality, a separateness, an “other.” The presence of holiness may inspire awe or strike fear or evoke amazement. The holy is both dangerous and desirable.

In biblical literature, there is a curious interaction between the human and the divine with respect to holiness. The Israelites are commanded to make the sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8), but verse 11 of the same commandment says that God declared the sabbath day to be holy. The way to holiness (for both individuals and societies) seems to be to emulate God’s attributes.

OK, now we’re drifting away from the historic/literary into the mystical.

In Jesus time there were two different groups that functioned in Jewish worship -Sadducees and Pharicees.

Somehow the Sadducees were tied to the Temple and after its distruction they had no further function or influence. Whatever the function of the Pharicees was, it was not tied the Temple in the same way and this group continued to influence Jewish worship after the fall of the Temple.

I guess, but don’t remember being taught, that the priestly function disappeared at that time, too.

The EB might cover this.

Jois, I guess I’m being dense, but I don’t see what the Sadducees and Pharisees (say about 200 BC to about 100 AD) had to do with the Holiness Code of Leviticus (written somewhere between 1250 BC and about 600 BC, depending on who you think wrote it) ?

I see even less connection between the Sadd/Phar situation and the modern distinction between Synagogue and Temple.

Not that I mind a non-sequitor now and again (he said with a blush), but I don’t really want to wander off into correcting your comments. The first sentence in your post is correct. Of the remaining sentences, some are dubious and some are wrong.

Oops! I didn’t read where he said modern!

Start another strand on S vs P - I was sure the S party died with the Temple… You never know!