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Erev Shabbat Message from Rabbi Feldman

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                         
 
There is a powerful image in the Torah Reading for this week that has become a great symbol of the Jewish People. I know that most of us associate the Menorah with the holiday of Hanukah but the true origin is in this week's Torah Reading of Be'ha'alotecha. The Menorah described in the reading is a seven branch candelabra that was lit at all times both in the Tabernacle during the years in the desert as well as in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It is this Menorah that was toppled over and that was in need of new oil in the time of the Maccabees that led to the story of Hanukah. Today we also know the Menorah to be a great symbol for the State of Israel with a special Menorah outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.
 
But the original menorah story is not about oil or miracles but rather another important Jewish value - light. The Menorah remains always lit in the Temple in the same way that the eternal light remains always lit in synagogues today. It does so to symbolize our belief in God's eternity and God'S ongoing relationship with the Jewish people. Another connection to eternity is the fact that the original menorah described in the Torah had seven branches with seven lights, corresponding to the seven days of creation and the seven days of the week. For us, seven is a number that symbolizes completeness, or wholeness since God created the entire Universe in seven days. Seven symbolizes forever and we see this in many other rituals that include seven repetitions such as the Aliyot on Shabbat, the Torah Processions on Simchat Torah and the seven times a bride circles a groom at a traditional Jewish wedding.
 
Whenever I read this story of the menorah, I am reminded of one of my favorite rabbinic lessons about candles and light. It is a simple truth that many of us may know from other parts of our lives but I always associate it with the Menorah and this week's Reading. The Rabbis teach that one of the great things about candles is that one candle can be used to light another candle and by doing so, the original candle loses nothing. This is quite different with most material things. If I have a book and I give it to you, I no longer have it. We can read together we cannot both own the book. But when one candle is used to light another the original candle loses nothing. The Rabbis say, the same is true with a lesson or any teaching. If I share it with you, I keep it and you now have it.
 
This is often a lesson I share with people when a loved one passes away. The lessons and experiences and values of their loved one have been shared with us in a way that we can still have them. The same could also be said about teachers who teach a new lesson so that their students will learn yet they keep the lesson inside as well.
 
Maybe that is why candles have become such a great symbol for the Jewish people, often associated with women. We begin our holidays by lighting two candles and by doing so we perform a sacred ritual we have been observing for thousands of years. We also end Shabbat with a candle, a unique candle, the Havdalah candle that is braided and colorful, often causing a good deal of light in a darkened room. We also light candles to remember loved ones, after a funeral, on a Yahrtzeit or at Yizkor and many people do so by declaring Ner Hashem Nishmat Adam - the candle of God is the soul of humanity.
 
This week as we begin Shabbat, as we light our Shabbat candles let's remember the first time a flame was ignited. It was in the description of the Menorah in this week's Torah Portion. As we light our Shabbat candles tonight and enjoy our Shabbat with family and friends, I share with you one of the most profound Jewish quotes about candles that comes from the great Rabbi Israel Salanter, "As long as the candle is still burning, it is possible to work and repair."
 
I hope you have a great Shabbat
 
Rabbi Adam Feldman
Posted: 6/9/2017 2:15:40 PM by | with 0 comments

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