A synagogue drawn in the sand: The custom may have originated in Amsterdam, where sand was used to dry mud on people's shoes. The Esnoga synagogue was near the edge of town, where most of the streets were unpaved and, thanks to the weather, often muddy. It was, therefore, practical to line the floor in the synagogue with sand to keep it tidy. There are a number of churches and taverns in the Netherlands dating to the 17th century that likewise have sand floors.
Synagogues in the Sand: There are two theories about the origins of the synagogue’s sand floor. One is that it symbolizes the desert through which Moses and the children of Israel wandered for 40 years. The other theory, considered by experts the more likely explanation, is that the floor harkens back to when Spanish Jews had to practice their religion in secret, meeting in cellars to pray.More: A Journey to Jewish Curaçao. And a pdf article from Frommer's: Sanctuaries in the Sand
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