The Eternal Light, ner tamid (נר תמיד), represents the menorah of the Temple in Jerusalem as well as the continuously burning fire on the altar in front of the Temple. It also symbolizes God's eternal presence, and is therefore never extinguished.
It is symbolizes the light released from the shards of the receptacles that God used to create light and goodness.
These lights are never allowed to dim or go out.
We are delighted to share with you some information about our beautiful stained glass windows.
The first seven windows, preceding from the front of the sanctuary, represent the Seven Days of Creation.
The remaining six windows represent a year of holy days and festivals.
|Window 1||First day of creation (Genesis 1:1-5) light emerging from darkness|
|Window 2||Second day of creation (Genesis 1:6-8) separating sky from waters|
|Window 3||Third day of creation (Genesis 1:9-13) earth, seas, and vegetation|
|Window 4||Fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:14-19) heavenly bodies|
|Window 5||Fifth day of creation (Genesis 1:20-23) creatures of air and sea|
|Window 6||Sixth day of creation (Genesis 1:24-28) land animals and humankind depicted
as the crown of creation
|Window 7||Seventh day of creation (Genesis 1:29-2:4) the Sabbath: our houses, candles,
hands raised in blessing; crown of the Sabbath Queen
|Window 8||Rosh Hashonah - light emerging from darkneww, (similar to Window 1 as
Rosh Hashonahis Yom Harat Olam, the Day of the World's Creation; also the
ram's horn (shofar), and the Book of Remembrance
|Window 9||Yom Kippur - the Book of Life; balances for weighing our sins; the closing of
the Gates of Repentance (Neilah)
|Window 10||Sukkot - sukkah/booth, a set festival table, with candles, wine fruits of harvest,
and palm branch and citron (lulov and etrog)
|Window 11||Pesach - Unleavened bread (three matzot), Elijah's cup, dividing of the sea,
the pascal lamb (korban pesach)
(half window over exit)
(at top) Chanukah - eight menorah flames, helmet, spear, and shield
|Window 13||Shavuot - The Ten Commandments, Mt. Sinai, the burning bush|
VISITING A SYNAGOGUE
This guide includes information applicable to Reform and Conservative synagogues. Different customs and practices apply in Orthodox synagogues.
Shabbat (Sabbath) services are held on Friday evenings and, in most congregations, Saturday mornings. Everyone, Jewish or not, is welcome to attend services. People show respect by wearing neat, clean clothing to services. There are no collections. Synagogues are maintained by annual membership dues.
IN THE SANCTUARY
You may sit wherever you choose in the Sanctuary of a Reform or Conservative synagogue. There is no segregation by sex, as there is in Orthodox synagogues. In a synagogue where head-coverings are required, you will be informed. Orthodox and Conservative synagogues require men to cover their heads with a skullcap called a Yarmulka or Kipah. In Reform practice, this is optional. These head-coverings are usually available just outside the Sanctuary doors. In synagogues where some women cover their hair, lace coverings are similarly provided. At morning services, Jewish men - and some women - wear a prayer shawl called a Talit.
The Sanctuary's front wall (usually an eastern wall, so the congregation faces Jerusalem)) on the bimah (a raised platform from which the service is led) is the Aron HaKodesh (Holy Ark) which contains one or more Torah scrolls. Each double scroll contains the Five Books of Moses, handwritten on parchment wrapped around two wooden rollers.
Above the Aron HaKodesh is the Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) which symbolizes the presence of God in the Sanctuary. (In some synagogues, the words "Know Before Whom You Stand" are written in Hebrew over the Aron HaKodesh.) Often, there is more than one Torah scroll in the Aron HaKodesh. Each is exactly like the others in terms of content. Each is dressed like a Cohen (Biblical priest).
Within the Sanctuary, and often in stained-glass windows, are symbolic representations of various ritual objects or biblical themes, but never the human form. There will often be Yahrzeit tablets, with many names on them, inside or outside the Sanctuary. These are the names of members and their relatives who have died. The lights next to the names are lit on the anniversary of each person's death and at special Yizkor (memorial) services, held four times a year.
The Rabbi leads the spoken portions of the services from a Siddur (prayerbook), reads from the Torah, and delivers a sermon. The Cantor (or cantorial soloist) leads the chanted portions of the service in Hebrew. During the reading of the Torah portion, members of the congregation may be called to the Bimah to perform certain functions, such as preparing the Torah or chanting the blessings before and after the Torah readig.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN DURING A SERVICE
There are two books used during a service, the smalled one is a Siddur (prayerbook) and the larger one is a Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians refer to as the "Old Testament").
Several times during the service the congregation will be asked to rise. However, visitors may remain seated if standing makes them uncomfortable. (Jews do not kneel when visitng a church.)
After some introductory prayers, blessings, and reading from Psalms, the main section of the services begins with the Barechu, the "call to worship." The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), often referred to as the "Watchword of the Jewish Faith," proclaims the Oneness of God, while the blessings just before and after it praise God as the creator of allthings, expresssing gratitude for the covenant between God and the Jewish people, and for God's promise of redemption. The Tefillah - also called the Amidah (standing prayer) - praises the God of history and the God of nature.
Some of the prayers are recited or sung in Hebrew, some in English, and some in both languages. Page numbers are often announced from the bimah.
After the first section of the service is completed, the Torah is brought out from the Aron HaKodesh and the Torah portion for the week is read. Most congregations follow the custom of reading the Torah in an annual cycle, with specific portions assigned to each week. Therefore, the same portion will be heard in a given week no matter where a synagogue is located. In most synagogues, a Haftarah portion (a reading from the Neviim, the prophetic book of Scripture), is read after the Torah portion.
After a sermon, the congregation rises for the Adoration, bowing towards the Aron HaKodesh. The service concludes with the memorializing the dead as the Kaddish prayer is recited. In many congregations, it is customary for everyone to rise while it is said; in others only those who are required to say it rise. The rabbi's wording just before that prayer will often give a clue as to who does what.
There is usually an Oneg Shabbat - a rejoicing of the Sabbath - with Kiddush (blesssing a cup of wine) and Motsi (blessing a challah bread) after the services. If you do attend an Oneg Shabbat, wait until the blessings for wine and bread have concluded before drinking or eating anything. Oftentimes, small cups of wine and slices of challah - braided milkless egg bread - are available to all. The wine blessing thanks God for creating the "fruit of the vine." The blesssing for bread thanks God for "bringing forth bread from the earth." Both acknowledge the partnership of God and humankind in the ongoing creation of the world: God makes grapes and grain; we make the wine and bread.
MOVEMENTS WITHIN JUDAISM
There are basically three major movements in the U.S. today: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. Some people also include a fourth movement, the Reconstructionist movement, although the movement is substantially smaller than the other three. Orthodox and sometimes Conservative are described as "traditional" movements. Reform Jews are described as "liberal."
Orthodox Judaism is made up of several different groups including the Modern Orthodox, who have largely integrated into modern society while maintaining observance of halachah (Jewish Law), the Chasidim, who live separately and dress distinctively, and the Traditional Orthodox, who are neither Chasidic nor modern. They all believe that God gave Moses the whole Torah at Mount Sinai, the written Torah (the first five books of the Bible and the oral Torah, a body of writing including the Talmud and various commentaries, which interpret and explain the Torah. They believe that the Torah is true, that it has come down to us intact and unchanged. They believe the Torah contains 613 mitzvot - commandments - binding upon Jews, but not upon non-Jews, who are only required to observe the seven Noahidic commandments.
Reform Judaism accepts the critical theory of Biblical authorship (the Documentary Hypothesis of "Four Source Theory"): that the Bible was dedacted from separate sources. Reform Jews, while more liberal than Conservative Jews, retain the values, ethics, and many of the practices of traditional Judaism, while using holiness as the criteria for ritual observance. German reformers of the early 1800's emigrated to the United States, where American Reform Judaism wasa formally established in 1875. Reform Jews run the gamit from those deeply involved in Judaism to those observing only the major holy days and festivals. One of the guiding principles of Reform Judaism is the autonomy of the individual. Reform Jews have the right to decide whether they can subscribe to this particular belief, or to that particular practice. But there is a historic body of beliefs and practices that are recognized as Jewish. The beliefs and practices that have traditionally identified us as Jews have enabled us not only to survive, but to remain connected with the God "...Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season."
Conservative Judaism grew out of the tension between Orthodoxy and Reform. It was formally organized in America in 1913. Conservative Judaism maintains that the truths found in the Tanakh and the Talmud were revealed by God, but contain a human component. Conservative Judaism generally accepts the binding nature of halachah, but believes that Jewish practice should absorb aspects of the predominant culture while remaining true to Judaism's values.
Reconstructionist Judaism is theoretically an outgrowth of Conservative, but it doesn't fit neatly into the traditional/liberal, observant/nonobservant continuum. Reconstructionists believe that Judaism is an "evolving religious civilization." They do not believe in a personified deity that is active in history, and they do not believe that God chose the Jewish people. From this, you might assume that Reconstructionism is to the left of Reform; yet Reconstructionism lays a much greater stress on Jewish observance than reform Judaism. Reconstructionists observe halachah if they choose to, not because it is a binding Law from God, but because it is a valuable cultural remnant.
Special days that punctuate the Jewish calendar year teach us something basic about Judaism. The observance of each of these days is a mitzvah - one of 613 Commandments found in the Torah - the Five Books of Moses. The Hebrew calendar as we know it originated around the fifth century B.C.E. There are twelve months: Tishri, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, and Elul. A Jewish day, even Shabbat (Sabbath), Holy Days, Festivals, and Fast days begin with the setting of the sun the day before.
Shabbat - the Hebrew word for Sabbath or Saturday. It is the only sacred day in Judaism that occurs every week, and it is also the only ritual found in the Ten Commandments. The Torah teaches that human beings must rest on Shabbat because "God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy." Shabbat is a weekly respite from endless toil and competition. We observe Shabbat as a day of rest, joy, and holiness, a day on which we are encouraged to set aside our daily labors so that we can more fully enjoy our families and our Jewishness.
Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year. It is one of the two Yamin Noraim (Days of Awe) and begins each year with a period of introspection and repentence called the High Holy Days. Jewish tradition identifies Rosh Hashanah as the day of devine judgment, and the Machzor (High Holy Day prayer book) describes God as sitting in judgment of every human being. Rosh Hashanah emphasizes the concept of individuals as free agents, responsible for the choices that they make and capable of Teshuvah - repentance.
Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement, is considered by most Jews to be the most sacred day of the year. It is the second of the Yamim Noraim, and it concludes the Ten Days of Repentance that begin with Rosh Hashanah. From the Kol Nidre prayer, at the beginning of Yom Kippur, to the last triumphant note of the Shofar (ram's horn) blown at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, its purpose is to move us toward reconciliation with God and our fellow human beings.
Sukkot - the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles; a week-long holiday that falls just five days after Yom Kippur. It is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, which were celebrated in antiquity by making pilgrimages to the Jerusalem Temple. Like the other two, Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (the Festival of Weeks), Sukkot has both agricultural and historic significance. The beautiful symbolism of the autumn harvest provides a welcome change of religious pace from the solemn days of prayer and introspection of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Atzeret/Simchat Torah - concludes the autumn festival season and is celebrated as "the eighth day of Sacred Assembly." The services for this festival focus on the conclusion and resumption of the annual cycle of Torah readings. In most Reform congregations this holiday is referred to simpy as Simchat Torah, the day on which we finish reading the last verses of Deuteronomy and immediately begain again with the first verses of Genesis.
Chanukah - The eight day winter festival commemorating the victories of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greeks, circa 165 B.C.E. These victories enabled the Jews to re-establish their independence and to rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem to the worship of God. Chanukah is a symbol of the eternal struggle of the Jewish people to remain Jewish in a non-Jewish world. The story of Chanukah is found in the Apochrypha (intertestamental books).
Purim - celebrates the events described in the Book of Esther. Although it is not certain whether the events described are fact, fiction, or a combinationof the two, the story provides a powerful annual reminder about the evils of intolerance and blind hatred, The story of Purim is about hunger for power and about hatred born of the Jews' refusal to assimilate, and their unwillingness to compromise religious principle by bowing before secular authority. Hatred of the foreigner and the stranger is still prevalent throughout the world, anti-Semitism has not disappeared, but, despite everything, the Jewish people have survived.
Pesach - Passover, marks the beginning of Spring. It is one of the three Pilgrimage Festivals, and it commemorates the anniversary of the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. The Seder (a ritual meal recounting the Exodus story, is possibly the most beloved and most observed of all Jewish rituals. Tradition prescribes the eating of Matzah (unleavened bread) during the seven days of Pesach. On Pesach we express our solidarity with other members of the Jewish community who are unable to celebrate in freedom. The experience of redemption in the Passover celebration should inspire all Jews to assist in the future redemption of all humankind.
Shavuot - Third of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals; "Weeks" in Hebrew. It occurs seven weeks after the beginning of Pesach, and it is celebrated as both the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and the festival of the early harvest (or "first fruits"). (Christians often refer to Shavuot as Pentecost, based on its occurence fifty days after the eve of Pesach). Because of Shavuot's relationship to the Revelation at Mount Sinai, Reform conffregations generally hold their Confirmation (graduation from Religious School) services on this holiday, emphasizing the willingness of Israel, then and now, to enter into a convenant with God.
As a result of the events of the twentieth century, two more special days have been added to the Jewish Calendar, one joyous and the other tragic:
Yom Hashoah - is Holocaust Remembrance Day, in memory of the Six Million martyrs to the inhuman hatred of the Natzis and their European allies during World War II.
Yom Haatzmaut - is Israel Independence Day. For Jews, Israel is much more than a nation. Its rebirth marks a new era in Jewish history, an era of cultural and national renaissance with profound spiritual significance. As the homeland of the Jewish people, Israel is a symbol of the unity of our people and of the responsibility of each Jew for the welfare and security of evey other Jew.
THE JOURNEY OF LIFE
Birth - The very first commandment in the Torah is "Be fruitful and multiply," Judaism has always regarded children as a blessing from God and the procreation of children as a mitzvah.
Education - Education in Judaism means more than teachning a child reading, writing, and arithmetic. It mean fulfilling the Torah's injunction to teach God's ways diligently: "Teach them faithfully to your children; speak of them in your home and on your way, while you lie down and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:7). In the raising of a Jewish child, responsibility is shared by the family and the Jewish community. It is up to the family to provide the child with the proper atmosphere for both physical and spiritual growth, and it is up to the community to provide the institutions and the personnel for formal education and the celebration of Sabbaths, festivals, and life-cycle events.
Bar or Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation - Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation are joyous milestones on the road to Jewish adulthood. Bar/Bat Mitzvah marks the beginning of puberty and the achievement of a degree of proficiency in Hebrew, Bar/Bat Mitzvah at age 13 should not mark the conclusion of a child's formal Jewish education. That occurs two or three years later, with Confirmation.
Marriage - Marriage in Jewish tradition is a partnership of three: a man, a woman, and God. The very word for marriage in Hebrew - Kiddushin (Holiness), underscores the sacredness of the marriage relationship. Reform synagogues welcome interfaith couples and generally provide Jewish educational opportunities for both Jewish and non-Jewish spouses and their children. The children of intermarried couples are presumed by Reform Judaism to be Jewish and are fully accepted in Reform congregations, if they have been raised and educated as Jews. Conservative and Othrodox Jews look to the religion of the child's mother at the time of birth.
The Jewish Home - The Jewish home, in conjunction with the synagogue, has preserved the traditions and values of Judaism through centuries of dispersion. In Judaism, home-centered rituals and ceremonies are at least as important as those that take place in the synagogue.
Divorce - Judaism has allowed divorce since biblical times. If divorce is inevitable, it should be worked out in an atmosphere of mutual respect and, if children are involved, with sensitivity to the best interests of those children. Reform Judaism does not require a get - religious divorce - but individuals should consult with their rabbi about the advisability of obtaining one before remarriage, Couple or individuals who desire a religious service to mark the dissolution of their marriage should consult their rabbi.
Death - Over the centuries literally hundreds of customs and folkways have become a part of the process of death and mourning, some of which are observed by Reform Jews and others not. Judaism teaches moderation in grief. Mourning custome were established by the rabbis not to prolong mourning, but to channel grief, limiting it, so that people might return to their normal pursuits. Judaism teaches equality in death: "The small and great are there alike, and the servant is free of the master." (Job 3:19) Judaism teaches us to understand death as part of the Devine pattern of the universe,
Conversion - The essential element in conversion is a wholehearted commitment to the Jewish people and the Jewish faith, as well as its customs, history, and destiny. Jews-by-choice are full and equal members of the Jewish people. The ceremony of conversion follows the completion of an intensive course of study, regular meetings with a rabbi, and the adoption of a Jewish way of living including attendance at Shabbat and festival services, observances of Jewish rituals at home, and participation in Jewish communal activities.
JEWISH ATTITUDES TOWARDS NON-JEWS
Judaism maintains that the rightrous of all nations have a place in the world to come. This has been the majority rule since the days of the Talmud, the code of Jewish Law. Judaism generally recognizes that Christians and Moslems worship the same God that we do, and those who follow the tenets of their religions can be considered righteous in the eyes of God.
Judaism does not maintain that Jews are in any way better than other people. Althought we refer to ourselves as the Chosen People, we do not believe that God chose Jews becaude of any inherent superiority. According to the Talmud, God offered the Torah to all the nations of the earth, and the Jews were the only ones who accepted it without hesitation. Another story suggests that God chose the Jews because they were the lowliest of nations, and their success would be attributed to God's might rather than their own ability. Clearly, these are not the ideas of a people who think they are better than other nations.
The blessings that we receive from God by accepting the Torah come with a high price: Jews have a greater responsibility than non-Jews. While non-Jews are only obligated to obey the seven Noahidic commandments, Jews are responsible for observing all the commandments found in the Torah - According to Judaism, the Ten Commandments are but 10 out of 613; the first commandment is "Be fruitful and multiply.") 365 of the 613 Commandments are positive; 248 are negative,
WHAT ABOUT JESUS?
Jews do not believe that Jesus was "the Son of God," if so saying implies that Jesus had a biological relationship with God not shared by all of us. Moreover, Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Assuming that the Christian scriptures are accurate in describing him, he simply did not fulfill the definition of the Messiah as Jews have understood it. The Messiah will fulfill the requisite prophesies: (1) Restoration of the Jerusalem Temple, (2) Ingathering of the exiles of Israel, (3) End of all evil and sin, (4) Universal awareness and knowledge of God, (5) Universal worship of God, (6) Universal peace and harmony, (7) Resurrection of the dead, and (8) An end to disease and death.
Throughout Jewish history, there have been many who have claimed to be the Messiah, or whose followers have claimed that, but all of these individuals died without fulfilling the mission of the Messiah; therefore none of them were the messiah, Q.E.D.
Reform Jews no longer await the coming of the Messiah, but look instead to a Messianic Age.
JEWS AND JUDAISM - A PEOPLE AND A RELIGION
An explanation for Our Non-Jewish Friends
Judaism is more than the religion of the Jewish people. Judaism has existed in many forms since the first Jew, Abraham, lived approximately 4000 years ago, Simply stated, the Judaism of Moses through the covenant with God allowed the building of the Tabernacle to house the Ten Commandments; established the building of altars and the sacrificial cult in the Temples of Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom, and of Samaria in the Northern Kingdom. Somewhere between the destruction of the First Temple (586 B.C.E.) and the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.), the rise of the Rabbis led to the beliefs of the post-Temple period, the Middle ages, and the Modern Age.
What is a Jew?
What is a Jew? The best way to answer this question is to describe what a Jew is not. A Jew is not a member of a particular race. If you went to Israel, you could not identify a "Jewish looking" person. In fact, there are Israelis who come from over 125 nations who speak 70 different languages. There are white Jews and black Jews, Jews are not an ethnic group.
Are Jews a religious group? The answer is "no" in the sense that they do not belong to a "church." For example, the land of Israel has a mystical connection for most Jews. While daily prayers have reminded Jews of the Temple in Jerusalem for 2000 years, even those Jews who do not pray have the same connection!
The hunger for education extends to most Jews whether they are "believers" or not because the Jewish society in which they lived always prized education, Jews have lived a millenia of persecution and they have come to believe that, while material things can be confiscated, their knowledge and belief can not. Therefore, the Jewish community has had mandatory schooling for everyone since the second century C.E. (Common Era). Consequently, it has had one of the world's highest literacy rates.
Accordingly, there is no one idea which captures this elusive definitional problem of who is a Jew, The Jews are a people who have a common history, life style, literature, hopes, and aspiration.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JEWS/JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANS/CHRISTIANITY
A Christian is one who believes or has faith in Jesus Christ. Christianity is a faith-based community of believers. A Jew is one who is recognized as Jewish by the mainstream Jewish community. Jews are the descendants of Jacob (who was also known as Israel), through Judah and Levi, two of his twelve sons. Signficantly Judaism is a biological community, rather than a faith-based community.
Both Judaism and Christianity believe that God wants us to do good and to resist doing evil. Both Judaism and Christianity believe that God is just. Both Judaism and Christianity believe in life after death, although neither has achieved wide consensus.
Many Christian communions hold that only those who believe in Jesus are "saved," i.e. one must believe that that Jesus is the Christ (saviour or messiah) and the Son of God, in order to be saved. Judaism is a religion of deed, not creed; behavior not belief; we are judged by our actions.
Most Christians believe that Jesus, was God's son, a way for a non-corporeal God to become flesh and blood. In Jewish teaching, God has no shape, form, or body; statues and images of Him are forbidden; scriptural anthropomorphism are poetic devices not meant to be taken literally. Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah and there will be a Second Coming. The Christian Messiah is a devine being. Judaism teaches that the Messiah will be a human being bearing God's message, and had not yet arrived. In examing the Gospels, Jews find that Jesus did not one single thing the messiah was supposed to do, therefore Jesus was not the messiah, Q.E.D. "He died for our sins," has no meaning in Judaism, where each person is responsible for his or her own sins. The idea of a messiah who comes, dies, rises from the dead and will come again has no basis in Jewish traditon.
Many Christian believe that this world, this existence is a test; preparation for the world to come. Judaism teaches that our purpose in this world is to be God's partners in the ongoing creation and perfection or repair of the world (tikun olam).
For Christians, a clergy structure may stand between God and the individuals. Some Christian clergy are regarded as agents of the Deity and have the power to absolve. In Jewish teaching, each individual has a personal relationship with God and only God can absolve sin. Rabbis are teachers and judges, and are not required for services or ceremonies.
Miracles are central to Christian belief, but play a very minor role in Jewish belief.
In Christianity, evil enamates from Satan (aka the Devil), a being opposing the Deity's will; the Deity is commonly regarded as being Trinitarian (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit); humankind is tainted by Original Sin. Judaism is strictly monotheistic; it teaches that God has enabled us to choose good or evil; that man is born without sin, but with a good and an evil inclination; evil arises from human beings acting in opposition to God's will. The Satan spoken of in Scripture (the Book of Job comes to mind) is an adversary of humanity, not of God.
Many Christians believe that the human body and human desires are evil and must be denied in order to achieve holiness. Judaism teaches that the physical world exists in order to be used, elevated, and made holy by humanity.