A New Light

Nearly four years ago Or Chadash celebrated the dedication of our 16 stained glass windows created by local glass artist Jim Schettino. This past month Jim and I have been collaborating as he is creating a new window for our sanctuary – this time on the Bima. It will contain the Hebrew name of our synagogue, Or Chadash, as well as a contemporary rendering of its meaning for us.

The name of our congregation comes from a passage found in early prayerbooks: “Or Chadash al Zion tair, v’nizkeh chulanu m’heirah l’oro – May a new light shine upon Zion, and may we soon merit its light.” One of our previous visiting students, Cantor Ross Wolman, composed music to this phrase for our congregation and my Installation, and we sing its uplifting words often. The phrase suggests our historic hope for messianic redemption, an idea that has been met with mixed support over the millennia. Many Jewish thinkers have not always support the belief in messianic redemption. Some, like early Reform Jews in the 19th century, reinterpreted this message to be one of a different kind of hope: that one day our world would be transformed into the kind of place we would wish it to be through our deeds. The New Light, these Reform Jewish thinkers explained, would emerge not from some mystical source or being shining goodness upon us, but rather we ourselves would be the source of that light, illuminating the darkness that envelopes far too many in today’s world. It is that sense of Or Chadash, the New Light that we have the ability to emanate, which will illuminate our new window.

As the holiday season fades from memory, we should not forget how much light Or Chadash shined upon our community this year. Witnessing our ability to bring light to dark places, from our response to the ravages of hurricane Sandy to our warm embrace of the kids at the Sand Hill Boys Home to the many Mitzvot each of you are performing every day, it is easy to see that the dream of Tikkun Olam, of healing our world, is brought a bit closer to realization every day. May this New Year be one filled with light for all.


Rabbi Joseph M. Forman