Shining Light On Hamas

May 28, 2021 Shining Light On Hamas by Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow
I would be willing to bet that most people, when asked what the symbol of the state of Israel is, would respond “the Magen David – the Star of David.”  But while the Star of David adorns the flag of Israel, the fact is, it is not the symbol of the state of Israel!  The symbol is found in tomorrow morning’s Torah portion, Behaalotcha – “to kindle,” kindling the menorah in the Tabernacle.

It is the menorah which stands outside Israel’s Knesset that is the official symbol of Israel.

But you should know, everything about that menorah is shrouded in mystery.  What might it have looked like?  One thing is for sure:  it didn’t look like the menorah on the wall of our sanctuary!  That’s for sure! The Temple menorah had seven lamps – ours has six!  In most Orthodox synagogues one lamp is missing, just to show that this is not the Temple menorah!

In fact, Maimonides provides us with a completely different depiction of what the Temple menorah looked like … and no one knows for sure.  Just as no one knows for sure what happened to the menorah!  Yes, it was taken into exile, but what then?  There are theories ranging from Istanbul to Iran to the Vatican.

So let me tell you this:  I don’t know for sure what the menorah looked like … I don’t know for sure what happened to it.  But I do know for sure exactly why we were told to kindle  the menorah in the Temple. The reason for the menorah?  So that there would be light in the Tabernacle!  That’s the reason …plain and simple!  Although we memorialize the menorah by the Ner Tamid – the Eternal Light that glows in every synagogue – that light is called “eternal” not because the menorah burnt all the time in the Temple, it’s called “eternal” because it burnt every DAY in the Temple. It burned at night!

Judaism does not want us to be in the dark.  That’s no way to live!  In fact, the Torah itself is referred to as “Torah Ohr –  the Light of Torah.”  The Jew must be aware, informed and indeed, enlightened. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as recent events show.  We saw how public opinion kept moving away from Israel during the recent Gaza conflict. Israel was accused of anything and everything … “targeting children,” “disproportionate response,” “apartheid,” “human rights violations.”  And on hearing this, how many Jews knew how to respond? How many saw the light?

Abraham Foxman, the former head of the ADL, recently said in an interview with the Times of Israel,  “It’s very scary when rabbis have to decide whether or not to condemn Hamas.  We’re hearing and reading about it.” And I am living it—I have not succeeded in getting the Indiana Board of Rabbis to issue a statement supporting Israel and condemning Hamas.  It is, instead, on the agenda for our next meeting, but I have to tell you, it feels to me like the scene from a Monty Python movie in which the lead character is being put to death by crucifixion and his friends reassure him by telling him that they are considering holding a meeting to discuss his situation.  I mean no disrespect to my colleagues on the Board of Rabbis, but we need to shine the light of truth on this situation and we need to do it now.  To that end, I have submitted a strong editorial to the Indianapolis Star.  As of the time I wrote this, I still do not know if it will run.

It is interesting to note that the menorah is the only temple article that Jewish tradition has us remember in the synagogue through the Ner Tamid. We don’t have an altar or a basin or a shulchan … all that and more was needed in the Temple. But light? Light we need … eternally, at all times and under all circumstances. So let us shine the light and pray that the world sees it and sees it soon.

© 2021 by Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow