FJC’s new Parochet

On June 18, 2022, I gave a d’var Torah in honor of Juneteenth. At the beginning of parshat Beha’alotecha, the Torah describes the menorah “according to the image that God showed Moses.” (Numbers 8:4) Rashi, picking up on the oddity (God is not said to have shown Moses any other part of the Mishkan visually), suggests that Moses had trouble understanding the verbal instructions, until God finally had to show him a picture. In this way, I suggested, the menorah is a fitting metaphor for multiracial, inclusive democracy in America–something we have never actually seen firsthand or experienced, only caught occasional glimpses of in moments of inspiration. The menorah is a fitting symbol: its seven branches represent diversity, yet they are all formed of a single piece of gold, all equally part of the whole. It is made by human hands, not handed down by God fully formed. The seven lamps are all at the same height, no one more important than another, and their light somehow coalesced to shed a unified glow. That, I concluded, is the kind of democracy we should all be working for and that Juneteenth, as a newly declared federal holiday, gives us a glimpse of.

The following week we celebrated Pride Shabbat and unveiled the new parochet, the curtain on the Ark, we had commissioned in honor of our congregation’s 100th birthday. (It was created by local artist Merrie Handfinger.) I had not been involved in designing it, and the secret was well kept. Imagine my delight, then, when I walked into the sanctuary that morning to see the menorah blazing out at me from the parochet, beams of rainbow light emanating from it as part of the design. Now, every time I lead services, I find myself face to face with that menorah and can’t help but remember my drash about democracy. Now, every time I stand before God on Shabbat and holidays, I know that I am being called forwards into the work of building that multiracial, inclusive democracy and making it real.

FJC invites you into that project with us.