The Glow of the Ner Tamid

20 You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. 21 Aaron and his sons shall set them up in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which is over [the Ark of] the Pact, [to burn] from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages.

This is from the beginning of this Shabbat’s Torah portion Tetzaveh.  Leviticus 27:20.   The Israelites have been instructed to build the Mishkan, the dwelling place for God in the desert.  They have been instructed to build the Tent, the altar, and the Golden Menorah.  In this week’s portion we are given the instructions for the clothing for the High Priests and as well as the instructions for their anointing ceremony.  But this opening verse literally illumines the Holy Meeting Place of God.  With the pure olive oil given by the Israelites -the ner tamid, the lamps will shine continually, Today the Ner Tamid in the synagogue, the Eternal Light signifies God’s Holy Eternal Presence.  And then too, in the tabernacle it was the same.  This regularly kindled lamp burned with the sweet olive oil provided by the people.  God’s symbolic Presence was the transformation of the kindling fuel into the flames of Divinity. When we kindle light today–whether by the beautiful Sabbath candles, Havdalah wicks, or Chanukah Menorah or the Eternal Light in the Sanctuary we are reminded of this warmth of God’s embrace, the light of the Holy Presence in our midst, the glow of family and friendships.  May they burn ever brightly.

God is in the Building.

This week’s Torah portion is parshat Terumah. One of my very favorite Torah portions.  It is important because God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to build the Tabernacle in the desert. This would become the place God would dwell.  But the Torah portion is very interesting because we assume we are building God’s home on earth.  But the Hebrew tells another story.  It tells us that God will dwell in our midst.  Not in it.  Thus the very project of building together. Of creating together is the place where the Divine dwells.  Not really in the Tabernacle.  This should teach us an important lesson that in our world we find God in the midst of action and creation.  We find God when we cooperate and collaborate together in a larger design, in building something that stand for goodness and holiness.

Perhaps this should be our approach to our world.  When we build a world filled with love as my friend and teacher Rabbi Menachem Creditor sings, Olam Chesed Yibaneh, this is really what God wants of us.  This is the example in this week’s Torah portion. We ought to strive for this together.

Where Have I been

Dear Friends and Readers

I have been a bit AWOL as 2015 begins.  That’s because I have been busier than ever!

Kol Ami is growing and program-wise thriving!  Our building is getting refreshed and I am so exicited.  Here is the an article that appeared in WEHOVILLE  about the amazing refurbishing and renewal at Kol Ami!  Come by for a visit.

This week alone is an amazing program on Thursday night about Jews from the Middle East  cosponsored with JIMENA–with a panel about Jews from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Egypt and their traditions.

Friday night for Shabbat evening services we will be blessed with the amazing poetry of Alden Solovy who is one of the most interesting people. He is from Jerusalem. He is a poet and prayer writer.  Here is the link to his wonderful spiritual blog. And he will be bringing his insights to us as a way to touch our deepest spirits.

Saturday night you don’t want to miss our Cabaret, fundraiser headed by Glenn Rosenblum, David Kaminski and others….

AND on Sunday if you are in your 20’s and 30’s our Kol Atid group is having an OSCAR VIEWING Party at Kol Ami
And then Purim on March 7 at 7;30 pm with our annual crazy Purim Schpiel….. So get ready to roll to an reinvigorated, dynamic Congregation Kol Ami–where there is something for everyone!

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The Real Miracle of Chanukah

Tonight we will light both Chanukah lights and Shabbat lights.  One we can use and one we cannot.  According to the Talmud-the Shabbat lights can be used.  You can read by the light of the Shabbat tapers!  But Chanukah lights you can not use.  No reading by the light of the menorah.  The light of Chanukah is only to look at and to be reminded of the great miracle of Chanukah!

There is a great debate about what is the actual miracle of Chanukah. Some say it is the story in the Talmud Shabbat 21b:

What is the reason for Chanukah? For our Rabbis taught: On the 25th of Kislev begin the days of Chanukah, which are eight, during which lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils in it, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they [the Hasmoneans] searched and found only one cruse of oil which possessed the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient oil for only one day’s lighting; yet a miracle occurred there and they lit [the lamp] for eight days. The following year these days were appointed a Festival with the recitation of Hallel and thanksgiving.

This is the traditional answer. As I shared with you on night two the teaching of Rabbi David Hartman z’l, my teacher the miracle of the Maccabees was not that it lasted but they had the courage to light the Menorah in the temple on the first night knowing that they didn’t have enough oil to last. They lit it anyway- not knowing what the future would bring!

Others say the miracle is the fact that the Macabee army defeated the most powerful army in the world! After a raging and often bloody three year war the Macabees recaptured the temple and rededicated it ushering in a time of Jewish sovereignty.  That is the miracle of Chanukah too-a true Jewish nation!

And yet others teach the miracle of Chanukah is the light itself.  The Light is symbolic of God’s Presence here on earth. If you read the TANACH, each time the temple is dedicated or rededicated God takes up residence in the holy space with a power light.  It is God that is in the light that beams forth from our Menorot.  It is God’s presence in our lives that helps to brings light to a dark world at the darkest time of year.   That is why this is indeed the Festival of Lights.

There are lots of miracle to go around!  So give thanks for this holiday, for family and friends, and indeed for God’s light showing us the way!