WHAT IS THE SYMBOL ON THE FRONT OF THE ALTAR?
Although the pomegranate is an ancient symbol steeped in tradition, it has re-emerged in contemporary culture, not only because of its beauty and rich history, but because the pomegranate is quite desirable for its healthy, antioxidant qualities. The word pomegranate, “rimon” in Hebrew, is derived from the Latin words "pomum" (apple) and "granatus" (seeded). Grown in the Mediterranean region for several thousand years, this remarkable fruit is rich in symbolism and there are specific references to the pomegranate in the Bible.
Exodus 28:33-34 states that images of pomegranates be woven into the hem of the me’il (“robe of ephod”), a robe worn by the Hebrew High Priest. Pomegranates can also be found in the Bible in 1 Kings 7:13-22, where the fruit is depicted on the capitals of the two pillars which stood in front of the temple King Solomon built in Jerusalem. King Solomon is said to have designed his crown based on the “crown” of the pomegranate. The significance of the Jewish pomegranate is further exemplified by its appearance on ancient coins of Judea, one of only a few images that appear as a holy symbol. Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness because it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of the Torah. For this reason and others, it is customary to eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah. Moreover, the pomegranate represents fruitfulness, knowledge, learning, and wisdom. Interestingly, many Jewish scholars believe that the pomegranate was the “forbidden fruit” of the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, the pomegranate is listed in the Bible as one of the seven species (shivat haminim) of fruits and grains that are special products of the Land of Israel.