If you like Hanukkah, then you’ll LOVE this week’s Torah portion. It begins with the very first Menorah lighting in the history of our people. I am sad to report that there was no gift exchange and no game of dreidel, but that does not diminish the significance of this important event. The Menorah is was actually the precursor to a completely different Jewish custom. It was the first “Ner Tamid” or “Eternal Flame.”
The “Ner Tamid” which can be found in the sanctuary or chapel of any Jewish house of worship represents the Divine Presence. It is a powerful reminder that even when we cannot see a physical form, God is still with us. It has been a central component of synagogue architecture from the very beginning of synagogues.
Our faith in a formless God is one of Judaism’s great gifts. It forces us to be God’s representatives in the world — doing God’s work and teaching God’s values. It also prepares us for the possibility that human beings can live on in this world even after death.
In recent months, we have seen an unbelievable number of influential musicians (David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, etc.) pass away. Yet, we know that they will live on through the musical legacies that they have left behind. Similarly, when writers, artists or filmmakers pass away, they leave behind a piece of themselves that lives on.
But what about the rest of us regular Joes and Janes? How does it work for us?
Well, first of all, we all leave behind memories, favorite sayings and stories among our close friends and relatives. Hopefully, we talk about — and continue to be influenced by – people we love even after they pass away.
There are other – more concrete – ways that we can ensure that our legacies live on. Judaism has a long tradition of ethical wills – writing down for our loved ones the values and principles that (hopefully) guided our lives in the hopes that we can pass down those values and principles.
There’s yet another way that pass down our ethics and ideals. We can make legacy gifts to the institutions and causes that are important to us in life that will take effect after we are physically gone. We influence our loved ones and our favorite organizations even after death.
This kind of gift is not just for the wealthy. It’s something that we all can do and there’s no minimum. That is why our congregation is starting a legacy giving program called the Ner Tamid Legacy Circle. It is our hope that everyone who feels a part of this community will want to give in this way.
In the coming months, you will start hearing from members of our committee, which is chaired by Samantha Hickman. Please take their calls. In addition, if you have already included the Congregation in your estate plan, would you please let us know?
Not only will it allow our legacies to live on after we are gone, it will allow our community to continue on. It makes each of us a “Ner Tamid.”