The symbolism of the mural is at once obvious and layered, combining primary symbols of Judaism in ways that allow multiple interpretations simultaneously. Ben Zion Black used bold theatrical colors and lines as a rabbi might choose to emphasize a particular theme and meaning of a Torah passage one year, and another at a different time. Inscriptions that we know today from a surviving photo and a few fragments provided worshippers with clues to some meanings and the occasional sermon prompt.
At center is a ribbon, a crown and the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), supported by rampant lions – familiar from both heraldic and Jewish tradition. The two Hebrew words on the ribbon can be transliterated as Keter Torah (Crown of the Torah). Where in a church’s apse one might find an enthroned Jesus or Mary, here only the word of God is exalted.
The arrangement recalls the throne of Solomon described in the Book of Kings, which was also supported by carved lions – and so much more. The Burlington lions can be seen in their more common guise, familiar in all sorts of synagogue applications, as surrogates for Jews (i.e., Lions of Judah), supporters and defenders of Torah. The images are framed and richly layered with painted curtains supported on four strong columns. These may represent the Jerusalem Temple; and so this timeless Biblical architectural history conflates the Tents of Jacob, the Tabernacle, and the Jerusalem Temple while also linking to the contemporary synagogue, too.