Swirl

From the Rabbi's Study

Rabbi Jenny's Bi-Monthly Sermonette —  Dec. 1, 2022

KISLEV: LET ‘EM SHINE!

“I see your true colors shining through,

I see your true colors and that’s why I love you...

So don’t be afraid to let them show.

True colors, beautiful like a Rainbow.”

 

 Cyndi Lauper

As the shortest day of the year approaches, we enter the month of Kislev. According to Torah, it was on the first days of the month of Kislev that the great flood ended. When the flood ended a giant rain- bow appeared to Noah and his family signifying the promise of a new life. It is also during the dark month of Kislev that we celebrate the first days of Hannukah, the Festival of Light.

On Hannukah we celebrate the miracle of the menorah oil by lighting all eight candles together on the last night of Hannukah.

What do a rainbow and a lit candle have in common? And, what might we impart from these symbols to bring more wholeness into our life?

The rainbow and the lit candle are both profound examples of “light.” The rainbow is the light that is seen after the storm and the lit candle, the light in the dark. Light is essential to Judaism. The Baal Shem Tov stated, “From every human being there arises a light.” One might argue that awakening and fanning the flame inside each of us is why we continue to practice our Jewish faith.

In Kislev, when the sky is darkest and the tendency to isolate and feel lonely emerges within us, we are granted the gift of light. Henceforth, the first lesson we can impart from these symbols is to be the Light.

The second lesson we can impart from the rainbow and the lit menorah is tolerance.

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller beautifully stated, “All hues of our existence stem from one source of Light, even if we are not always wise enough to see it.”

As we ponder the rainbow and the statements above, we can look to our similarities rather than our differences and work to celebrate them. For there are seven colors in the rainbow and eight candles on the menorah. Each would not exist without the other.

To foster self-love and acceptance in each other as an expression of the light of God is our inheritance. This month of Kislev, let us shine our lights brightly both in our hearts and our community!

Let’s encourage our friends and family to be bright! Let’s...Let ‘em shine!

WE ARE STRONG

 

By Rabbi Jenny Steinberg-Martinez JD CHT

The peaceful Buddhist country of Tibet was invaded by Communist China in 1949. Since that time, over 1.2 million out of 6 Tibetans have been killed, over 6000 monasteries have been destroyed, and thousands of Tibetans have been imprisoned. When the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Sanctuary, was invaded by the Chinese, and the surviving monks were sent out into the world to survive, he called upon Jewish leaders for advice. Why? It is because we are strong in our identity and have remained true to ourselves in a life of Diaspora. With our strength we have managed to touch all four corners of the globe with our wisdom, joy, and traditions.

 

The summer time in the Western World brings celebration, barbecue, swimming and fun. It seems a strange time of year for our most somber holiday. Tish B’ Av, the sacred fast, arrives this month to remind us of the 9th day of Av a day when a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon's Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem.

 

Tisha B'Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. The observance of the day includes five prohibitions, most notable of which is a 25- hour fast. The Book of Lamentations, which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem is read in the synagogue, followed by the recitation of kinnot, liturgical dirges that lament the loss of the Temples and Jerusalem. As the day has become associated with remembrance of other major calamities which have befallen the Jewish people, some kinnot also recall events such as the murder of the Ten Martyrs by the Romans, massacres in numerous medieval Jewish communities during the Crusades.

 

So how do we honor this day with an appropriate balance of reverence and optimism? This is how; we claim our Diaspora as a beginning and not an ending. We claim our Diaspora as a call from God to persevere in the world and be a force of Torah for all to experience. We claim our strength. It is when we claim these things that we can help bring unity and healing to the whole world without preoccupation with what was lost; for we have found more than we have lost. We have found our power. We are strong!

 

*To read more about the Jewish and Buddhist conversation: The Jew in the Lotus, by Roger Kamenetz