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Happy Solstice! - Chronicle Online/The WORD 06/20/2024

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

June 20, 2024

14 Sivan 5784

Parashat Beha'alotecha

Just yesterday, two environmental protesters were arrested for spraying orange paint on some of the stones of Stonehenge. The timing of their vandalism was not random. Today is the summer solstice when approximately 10,000 people gather at Stonehenge. Fortunately, workers were able to clean the stones immediately, and there does not seem to be any permanent damage to the stones.

Although many people flock to Stonehenge for the summer solstice, the truth is that no one really knows what drove people to start erecting the structure some 5,000 years ago. There are many theories, which is proof that no one really knows. For us today, it is simply a really cool thing to see. And maybe that’s all it ever was.

It seems unlikely that we will ever know for sure. Even the Druids, who consider themselves descendants of the Celtics and have many rituals associated with Stonehenge, can’t tell us how it was used when it was first built.

This lost knowledge is a reminder of how fortunate we are in the Jewish tradition that we have a written record of our customs and laws. Granted, our tradition is younger than Stonehenge, but it is still remarkable that our Torah lines up with archaeological findings in Israel and our modern Jewish practices.

This week’s Torah portion begins with a description of Aaron—the first High Priest—lighting the seven flames of a lampstand called a “Menorah.” We don’t have to imagine or guess what a Menorah looks like. Archaeologists have found carved images of Menorahs dating back approximately 2,000 years. The Arch of Titus, built in the 1st century CE, depicts the Romans carrying the Menorah out of Jerusalem. Besides, we all know what it looks because it is still a part of tradition to this day. The official emblem of the State of Israel includes an image of a Menorah.

This is just one small example of how the Torah and the archaeological record come together to tell the story of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. Over and over again, the archaeological record matches up with the words of the Torah that the Jewish people schlepped with themselves throughout the centuries and across the globe. And anyone who claims that the Jews are not indigenous to the Land of Israel are simply being intellectually dishonest.

When it comes to Stonehenge, we may never find the “instruction manual.” Fortunately, we don’t have that problem when it comes to the history of our people in the Land of Israel. We don’t have to guess. We have not only the ruins, but the written history to back it up. Happy Solstice!



PS - If you are interested in seeing the slides from my presentation on Shavuot, click here

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