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December 18, 2006

The Menorah on Chanukah: By Rabbi Denise L. Eeger

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah.

Tonight as we gather to celebrate this first night of Chanukah—we should be reminded of the central symbol of the Jewish people the Menorah. I know many of you think that it is the Jewish star—or Magen David—the interlocking triangles. But this is a relatively late symbol of Judaism. In ancient days it was the seven-branched menorah—the golden lamp stand that stood in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, described in Exodus, that was the symbol of the People Israel.

The menorah of the ancient Temple-was of beaten gold. One solid beautiful piece. Its light shone for all to see.
Many years ago on a trek through the Sinai peninsula—before Israel gave it to Egypt, I hiked to a lonely rock. Inscribed on it was ancient graffiti—a menorah—dating back a couple of thousand years. Our guide told us this was a sign for the ancient caravans through the deserts of Jewish traders.
And of course the Menorah is the symbol of the modern state of Israel. Many of you have stood with me outside of the Knesset –Israel's parliament building in front of the beautiful bronze Menorah presented to Israel by Britian upon Israel's founding. The menorah is also the symbol on the coat of arms of the State of Israel.
Tonight we light a special kind of menorah—a chanukiah—that took the seven branched design and enlarged it—to remind us of the miracles of this season; The miracles of the triumph of the few over the many. We celebrate the triumph of the Maccabees over the Hellenists. We celebrate the rededication of our Temple in Jerusalem, dwelling place of the Divine after it had been defiled by the Syrian-Greeks. We celebrate the miracle of the light of the menorah as it was rekindled by the Maccabees on this day - the 25th of Kislev in the year 165 BCE -2, 171 years ago. On Chanukah we are reminded of the power of this menorah; of its beauty and of its strength.
Tonight I want to share a story with you that I found about the menorah, the temple and the light the golden menorah gave to us and to the world.
"Before the advent of the light bulb, buildings were illuminated by the
natural light of the sun. For this reason, windows were designed to be
narrower on the outer side of the wall and wider on the inside. This
design served as a type of funnel that captured the
rays of the sun and dispersed the light inside the building.
Curiously, the windows in the Temple had the opposite design. They were
narrow on the inside and wide on the outside. Why?
The light of the Menorah represents wisdom of our Torah. The seemingly
backward design of the windows signified that this wisdom was to radiate out
to the entire world. More than the Temple needed the light of the sun, the
world needed the enlightening wisdom of the Torah."
(Adapted from "Chanukah - Eight Nights of Light, Eight Gifts for the Soul," by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf. http://www.leviathanpress.com.)

Thus when the Syrian-Greeks defiled the temple and erected idols to their gods and goddesses they trampled upon and extinguished the light of the menorah literally and metaphorically by trying to extinguish the light of the Torah. They forbid Jewish worship and study. They tried to make all the Jews like them. But the truths of our Torah and the truths of justice and righteousness are hard to extinguish. For these lived inside of the Judah Maccabee and his family and their followers just as they live inside of us.
The faith of the Jewish people—in One Unified Divine Presence that connects us all—is identified with the enlightening wisdom of Torah. It binds us as a people. When the Maccabees rekindled the menorah in the temple—on that 25th of Kislev so long ago—they lit a new fire of Torah and peace and faith. The flames of the golden lamp stand brought a new light and OR CHADASH—over Zion and into the hearts of the Jewish people.
So tonight as we have kindled our chanukiot. And for the next eight days let our faith be renewed by the flame of the menorah. Let our values burn brightly for justice and righteousness for all people. Let the glow of the flames warm us to God's Divine Presence felt in the circle of loving family and friends. And let the beauty of hope and peace shine forth from our hearts into this dark world—transforming it before our very eyes. Yes and then we will say a great miracle happened there and here. – Nes Gadol Haya Sham. Nes Gadol Haya Po.

Posted by Lee at 01:26 PM

December 11, 2006

Consrvative Judaism and Homosexuality: By Rabbi Denise L. Eger

This week the Jewish stage was taken by the Conservative movement. No doubt you have heard of the confusing vote of the Rabbinical Assembly's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards that took place on Wednesday. For some time the Conservative movement of Judaism has been trying to figure out its position on the issues of gay men and lesbians in their branch of Judaism. Are gays welcome? Can they serve as rabbis and educators? Can Conservative rabbis officiate at weddings and commitment ceremonies?

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards sets halakhic or Jewish legal policy for Rabbinical Assembly rabbis and for the Conservative movement as a whole. Its membership consists of twenty-five rabbis who are voting-members, as well as five non-voting lay representatives of the United Synagogue and one non-voting cantor representing the Cantors' Assembly. In 1992 this committee of 25 of the conservative movement took up the issue and voted to welcome gays and lesbians to their congregations. However, they did not allow ordination as rabbis and cantors. They forbid their rabbis from officiating at ceremonies of commitment and they would not recognize gay partners as a family in their shuls. Truth be told some

Posted by Lee at 09:38 AM
UAHC