Isn’t It Romantic

A couple of winters ago I tried to find a good Hanukkah movie to watch as a family on Disney+ with its extensive historic catalog. Unfortunately, I found, unsurprisingly, that the company did not dedicate its vast resources to producing content for Jews. I did discover one movie, Full-Court Miracle, that was actually not terrible, although I might be biased since it combines two of my favorite subjects: Talmud study and basketball.

While cheesy, at least Full-Court Miracle had the benefit of taking Judaism and Jews seriously. The characters in the movie genuinely love their tradition, and the narrative attempts to make the values of the Maccabee story real for the 21st century. One cannot say the same about the Hanukkah-themed movies produced by the Hallmark Channel, in which Jewish characters usually learn to love and appreciate Christmas, rather than their own holiday.

Now, after controversy sparked by the Hallmark Channel’s troubled relationship with diversity in the areas of race, religion, and sexual orientation, there is a new CEO, who wants to expand the content offered by the network. One way to do that is to tell stories that are authentic to the Jewish experience. “Don’t disrespect Hanukkah,” she said. “Understand why that is important.”

Another way to tell real Jewish stories is to use holidays other than Hanukkah and its relationship to the December Dilemma. “There are other opportunities outside of Christmas to talk about the Jewish faith,” she points out. A reporter from the Forward notes, however, that there are no plans yet for a High Holy Day rom-com, but reading about the change in strategy, I wondered, what could the Hallmark Channel do with some of the other Jewish holidays?

Since Purim is coming up, how about the story of a young Jewish assistant getting her first job at a major Wall Street finance firm with crazy hours, but she still wants to observe Shabbat. When a big multibillion dollar deal needs to close on a Saturday, she has to decide whether to pretend to be a religious Jew and give up her observance or pass up a major chance at a promotion.

How about a Passover historical drama of a sophisticated New York Jewish woman who moves to the South in the 1950s and sees the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement? Her neighbors are a Southern Jewish family who have very conservative views on integration, but she takes a liking to the son. The relationship changes both of them as they realize they have truly not understood how the Exodus story relates to the struggle for African American freedom.

Maybe these stories are cliched, and there is a reason I didn’t move to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, but it would be nice for American television to explore some of the lesser-known Jewish holidays the way it does Christmas. Not only would we Jews feel seen; non-Jews may learn a little bit about what it means to be different in an overwhelmingly Christian country.

Time and Space Oddities

This Shabbat is a bit special. OK, yes, every Shabbat is special, so maybe I should rephrase that to read: this Shabbat is a bit unusual. First of all, it is Rosh Hodesh, the first day of the month of Adar. Second of all, it is Shabbat Shekalim, one of the four special Sabbaths before the holiday of Passover. This may not seem unique, but it actually is quite rare, and if it were a normal year we would read from a grand total of three Torah scrolls: one for the regular weekly portion, one for the Rosh Hodesh reading, and one for the special Shekalim maftir concluding portion.

None of the readings we do are particularly extraordinary. We get to them every year, but rarely do they all come together on one day. Shabbat Shekalim occurs either the Shabbat before or on Rosh Hodesh Adar. The reason is that in the Torah, the Israelites were commanded to bring a half-shekel donation to the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, each year. The donation was to be made in the month of Nisan, when Passover occurs, so it was announced by reading the relevant passage one month before so people could prepare their donation.

I love the quirks of the Jewish calendar, and one of them is that it is unusual for Shabbat Shekalim to land on Rosh Hodesh. This occurrence doesn’t present any real challenges since we are used to having three Torahs on a Shabbat. It can also happen on both on Hannukah and Shabbat HaHodesh when they fall on Rosh Hodesh, and of course we always have three Torahs on Simhat Torah, the completion of the Torah reading in the fall.

Shabbat Shekalim on Rosh Hodesh does, however, herald another rare occurrence: the first Seder falling on Saturday night, which does present several problems. The Fast of the Firstborn and the search for chametz (bread products) are moved back a day to Thursday because neither cleaning nor a fast can occur on Shabbat, and a fast cannot be moved to a Friday.

The first Seder on Saturday night also presents a challenge to Jewish law, in which two values come into conflict. We are commanded to remove chametz from our homes the day before Passover, but we are also commanded to eat three meals on Shabbat, two of which should include bread. How can we have a proper Shabbat afternoon meal with challah if we are not allowed to have bread in the house? You might answer that you could use matzah for the meal, but this is not allowed since we avoid eating matzah the day before Passover so that its taste will be fresh in our mouths at the first Seder.

There are two ways to resolve this dilemma. The first is to use egg matzah, which cannot be used to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah at the Seder but is “bread” in the sense that one says the motzi blessing over it like we would for bread. The benefit of this solution is that egg matzah is kosher for Passover so you can make your house totally prepared for the holiday by Friday afternoon.

While this solution is the easiest and probably the most preferred by rabbis in its simplicity, I personally don’t like it because egg matzah to me is too close to regular matzah. I love the moment in the Seder when I eat matzah for the first time in months. Having egg matzah a few hours earlier ruins the experience. So instead, what I do is leave some bread for the Friday and Saturday meals, but make sure not to get crumbs anywhere in the house. My teacher in Israel recommended outdoor meals on the patio with pita since it leaves fewer crumbs. This solution also requires having the Saturday meals earlier in the day. The last time this occurred in 2008, I moved the kiddush to after Shacharit and before the Torah service.

Having Shabbat Shekalim and Rosh Hodesh on the same day (and therefore the eve of Passover on Shabbat) is a rare occurrence. The first Seder on Saturday night only happened 12 times in the twentieth century and will happen only one more time before 2045. This coming Shabbat also happens to coincide with Chinese New Year, which has a number of similarities to Passover.

Oddities like this are fun because they connect us to the perpetual cycle of the Jewish calendar and cherished moments in our lives. I remember the last two times they occurred, including a wonderful year spent in Israel. How much has changed in my life since those memories years ago, and yet the holidays and the calendar are eternal, anchoring us in the ever-flowing stream of time.

What is a Jewish Community?

This week the Israeli Supreme Court heard a case about a member of the Abayudaya community of Ugandan Jews who is seeking to become an Israeli citizen. The Ministry of the Interior in Israel denied his request because it does not recognize his conversion to Judaism. Normally, Israel accepts immigration requests from people who convert to Judaism abroad, through the auspices of a recognized Jewish community, a designation the ministry has decided not to give the Abayudaya.

I have written about the Jews of Uganda, and our partnership with them, before. They trace their community back to their founder who decided he wanted to live as a Jew but didn’t formally convert. In 2002, the Conservative movement sent rabbis to Uganda to officially convert members of the community. Today, the Abayudaya are recognized by the movement and by the Jewish Agency, but the Interior Ministry, controlled by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, refuses to accept them.

For decades, since the adoption of the Law of Return that allows any Jew to make aliyah and become an Israeli citizen, we have struggled with the question of who is a Jew. Now, because of the politics of conversion in Israel, the new debate is centered around the question of what is a Jewish community. Conversions performed by Conservative and Reform rabbis in Israel are not recognized by the state, but such conversions performed in the diaspora by recognized Jewish communities are accepted for the purpose of citizenship.

Ostensibly, this odd situation is meant to prevent the conversion process from being a loophole that would allow mass immigration of non-Jews into Israel. Decades ago, no one would have considered Israel a destination for migrants. It was a small, poor, besieged country in an unfriendly neighborhood, but today Israel has a high standard of living, a vibrant economy and is regularly on the list of happiest countries.

Israel has seen non-Jewish migrants and asylum-seekers enter the country looking for a better life. While it is theoretically possible that some of these people could find an unscrupulous rabbi to provide a fake conversion, the likelihood is very small. In reality, the people who convert to Judaism do so for spiritual reasons, and it has been noted that often in Israel the Judaism of black Africans is questioned in ways that it is not for white Europeans and Americans.

The Conservative movement’s petition to allow Yosef Kibita to make aliyah has been withdrawn on technical grounds. The high court said that he doesn’t have standing since he converted in 2008 while the Abayudaya community was not recognized until 2009. The court said he could go back to Uganda, convert again, request citizenship now that he has a conversion from a recognized community, and they will hear the case again. We will see what he decides to do.

In the meantime, questions about what it means to be a Jewish community will remain and will only become more thorny now that COVID has upended our notions of time and space. If I live in Africa but participate in prayer services and Jewish education provided by a synagogue in New Jersey, what is my Jewish community? Technology has the power to bring us together and connect people across the world, but it will continue to challenge us to redefine Jewish life in the 21st century.

Only God Can Make a Tree

Last year I had to do something I truly hate: cut down a tree. The derecho storm that swept through our area in June brought down large, heavy branches that damaged our shed and could have done major destruction to our house if they had fallen at different angles. So we consulted an expert who recommended we remove the large offending tree.

I was loath to cut down the beautiful poplar, knowing Judaism’s love and concern for trees. Deuteronomy 20:19 commands:

When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city?

The Torah here refers to trees that are not fruit-bearing, but the question it asks is so poignant: we must go out of our way to protect trees because they cannot get out of our way.

I felt that I was committing some kind of sin as the workers came to take down the tree. I did feel better when they showed me the extensive rot all throughout the trunk and branches. It was only a matter of time before the tree would have come down, and who knows what kind of damage it could have done. Surely the Torah’s instruction to protect trees does not extend to putting yourself in danger.

And yet, I still wish I could have the poplar back. Our world is in need of more trees, not less. Not only do they have the potential to capture carbon from the atmosphere, prevent erosion and flooding, and cool our surroundings. They also may actually be intelligent, communicate, and care for one another.

Today is Tu Bishvat, the Jewish New Year of the trees, when we celebrate the beauty of nature that surrounds and nourishes us. Trees are amazing organisms that are so familiar, we think we know them, but we are just barely scratching the surface of our understanding.

Last week the world’s richest person, Elon Musk, tweeted that he is “donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology”, and a number of people replied with some version of “how about a tree?” The exchange is emblematic of 21st century discourse and the desire to find a technological solution to every problem. Why spend the time and money to invent a machine, when the solution already exists and would provide many more side benefits?

The state of Israel is famously one of the only nations in the world that entered this century with more trees than it had a hundred years ago. That fact speaks to the tremendous effort the Jewish National Fund has put into planting forests and is a great accomplishment for the country. But the flip side is disheartening for the rest of the world which has fewer trees than a hundred years ago. Now more than ever it is time for us to create more forests; they could save our lives.

None to Make Him Afraid

Inauguration day in America has been described as the closest we have in this country to a civic religious holiday. It is filled with ritual, time honored traditions, and of course, prayer. Each ceremony is framed by religious leaders offering an invocation and benediction. Usually, the clergy chosen have some connection to the new president, either religiously or geographically.

This year was no exception as religious and biblical language suffused the events. The poet Amanda Gorman, whose performance was a highlight of the show, included the words “Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree”, which is reference to a number of Biblical citations: Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10 and 1 Kings 5:5. But the line has multiple allusions: not only to the Bible but also to an important letter from George Washington by way of the musical Hamilton.

In the play, Washington tells Alexander Hamilton that he will not run for president again, but instead retire to his home in Mount Vernon to “sit under my own vine and fig tree / A moment alone in the shade / At home in this nation we’ve made.” Hamilton is astonished that the president is willing to give up power, but Washington wants to show the country and the world how the peaceful transition of power in a democracy works.

Gorman’s use of the line is particularly apt as our country reels from the attack on the Capitol two weeks ago to prevent the transition of one administration to the next, but it also echoes another use of the verse. Washington wrote a letter to the Jewish community of Newport, RI, telling them:

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

Washington wanted the Jews to understand that they were free in America to practice their religion in their own way, with complete freedom. It is a message that our community has cherished for centuries and was reaffirmed by Gorman in her inspiring words.

There were other uses of religious language in the inauguration. President Biden, in his speech, quoted Psalm 30 (recited as part of our morning service each day): “weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.” It is a verse of deep comfort in dark times and appropriate as the coronavirus rages across the country.

For every appropriate use of Biblical imagery, there are other, more tortured ones. The day before the inauguration, the president and vice-president elect held a COVID memorial service where Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was sung. Many pointed out that the sexually charged, agnostic lyrics do not conform well to such a setting. They compare it to the patriotic use of “Born in the USA”, which Bruce Springsteen wrote as an indictment of his country’s military recruitment policies.

Perhaps Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was misused, but it follows a long tradition of Jewish prayer and music. The ancient rabbis often take Biblical verses out of context in liturgical settings for their own theological purpose, and probably the most famous piece of synagogue music, “Kol Nidrei”, has lyrics that don’t really fit the tune. Cohen’s song is so popular today because of the chorus of hallelujahs and its beautiful melody, not its verses. The same can be said of “Kol Nidrei”, whose haunting tune is powerful, but doesn’t really fit its formulaic, legalistic lyrics.

Presidential inaugurals have always appropriated religious language and will probably do so long into the future. Leaders use these texts for their own purposes, and in that they are following in a long tradition. Scripture is so large and diverse it can be used for almost any message. The question is not whether the text is quoted out of context or not. The question is whether the message lifts us up and gives us hope.

Who’s First?

A few months ago, as the coronavirus pandemic was raging, I watched the movie Contagion. Even though it was made almost 10 years ago, it has eerily predicted almost every aspect of the last year: the China origin of the virus, the failed attempts to contain it, the government mismanagement, the quack treatments, masks and social distancing, and finally the discovery and distribution of a vaccine. While there are small differences between reality and the film (the movie virus is much deadlier), I find myself returning, in my head, to Contagion each time we reach a new phase in our real-life outbreak.

It is interesting to note the differences between fiction and reality in the case of the vaccine (spoilers ahead). In Contagion, the vaccine is a nasal spray that comes in a package that can be administered at home with minimal supervision. It also comes with a bracelet so that one can prove immunity. The distribution is handled by lottery based on one’s date of birth in order to fairly allocate the life-saving resource.

Again, the virus in the film is far deadlier than the coronavirus: there doesn’t seem to be a particularly vulnerable age group. Instead, everyone is more or less equally at risk, so a lottery seems to be the most equitable solution. Of course, we know that COVID-19 is most deadly for the elderly which is why it is being distributed to older people first, but Contagion offers an interesting alternative.

What if we distributed the coronavirus vaccine through a lottery system? There seemed to be a consensus around the idea of prioritizing health care workers and the elderly in long term care facilities, but the slow and inefficient pace of the rollout has raised questions about a better way to get shots in people’s arms. The administration is now urging states to offer the vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 and is not going to hold back second doses as originally planned.

The vaccine distribution raises all kinds of difficult ethical questions, which is why the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism released a teshuva, written by my classmate Rabbi Micah Peltz, that addresses some of these issues. Rabbi Peltz reaffirms that we Jews have an obligation to receive the vaccine unless our physician recommends against it. Also, our synagogues, schools, and other institutions can require employees, students, and congregants to be vaccinated. Jewish law also demands that we are equitable in the rollout of the vaccine. It should not be hoarded by rich countries nor should wealthy and privileged individuals use their money and connections to jump the line.

The ethical dilemmas raised by Rabbi Peltz will be discussed and debated in the months to come. While Jewish and secular law may allow a synagogue to require a vaccine to enter the building, this is not something we have asked for in the past. Would we actually refuse entry to a member who can’t prove they have been vaccinated?

As troubling as Contagion is to watch, there is some comfort from the end of the film as the vaccine rolls out to the public. Despite all the hardship and loss of a pandemic it is comforting to know that life can return to normal. New questions that we never thought we would have to address – who gets a vaccine first, what institutions can require it – will need to be answered, but our lives can have a Hollywood ending where we get to live happily ever after.

Hope and Healing

2021 was supposed to be the start of better times, but the first week of this year seems to only add to our misery. Wednesday set a record for the most coronavirus deaths in the United States since the epidemic began, even as the news was dominated by the mob that took over the Capitol, delaying the counting of the electoral vote, and leading to the death of 4 people. In our own Adath community, we have had to grapple with the loss of our beloved Evette Katlin, wife of Hazzan and mother of Shara and Aaron.

The loss of Evette is particularly devastating for the Adath family. She was a beautiful voice and soul who contributed immensely to our community, from running a Rosh Hodesh women’s group to signing in the choir, leading services, and performing together with Hazzan and her children at innumerable concerts and programs. I myself deeply appreciated her guided meditations which brought meaningful spirituality to prayer.

During our Ripped from the Headlines session today, participants shared some memories of Evette, including her distinctive, boisterous, and joyous laugh. Whether through her singing voice or that laugh, you always knew when she was in the room. Because she was studying to become a rabbi, Evette and I spent a lot of time talking Torah. I was so honored that she would come to me for advice and mentorship in her rabbinical journey.

It is not only the Adath community who will miss Evette. Her fellow students and the communities that she served will also feel her loss, but in particular we send our love and support to her family. They will need healing as they go through the process of grief and mourning.

Healing is what we all need right now as well: physical healing for those who continue to suffer from the coronavirus pandemic and spiritual healing for our nation, torn apart by ideological divisions. Perhaps 2021 will not be the positive new start we were all hoping for, but I do think it can be a year of refuah, healing. It is up to us to do gemilut hasadim, the acts of kindness, that can bring comfort and hope even in the darkest times.

Separating Art from Life

In the science fiction masterpiece, The Book of the New Sun, a character asks the question “Is all the world a war of good and bad? Have you not thought it could be something more?” The young protagonist, to whom the question is posed, is struck dumb. He had always assumed that in fact the concepts of good and bad are quite black and white, but of course this is not always the case.

As we say goodbye to 2020, a year that for the most part was just bad, our culture continues to struggle with this question. We crave heroes and villains, not just in our popular entertainments, but also in our politics and culture. There is little room for ambiguity or the possibility that someone can be both good and bad.

An excellent example may be one of the best movies of 2020 that none of us have seen and aren’t likely to for quite some time. An Officer and a Spy, directed by Roman Polanski, has received many accolades but no distributor in the United States. You can’t see it in theaters or streaming services.

Polanski has been a pariah for years in the US because he fled the country after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, and yet his films have been shown here. What is different is that Polanski has been accused of sexual misconduct by 6 more women since 2019. Since #MeToo, society has been less willing to forgive such crimes.

To add to the complexity, An Officer and a Spy is about the infamous Dreyfus affair, when a French Jewish army officer was falsely accused of treason. The case rocked French society and inspired the modern Zionist movement in Theodor Herzl when he covered the story for a Viennese newspaper. Polanski explicitly compared his legal situation to that of Alfred Dreyfus. In his mind he has been unfairly tarnished by accusations he considers false.

Many would disagree with Polanski about his situation. While Dreyfus truly did nothing wrong, it is quite clear that Polanski acted inappropriately. So with such a glaring blind spot, can he create a compelling movie about injustice and the way that society searches for villains to destroy? Although I haven’t seen the film, apparently the answer is yes, he can.

Things would be simpler if An Officer and a Spy was simply bad. The narrative would be that Polanski cannot separate himself from the work and therefore fails to tell a persuasive story. Instead, it is us, the viewers, who are forced to grapple with the question of separating the man from his work. Should we watch a movie about truth and justice created by a sexual predator?

There is no easy answer when the subject matter is modern anti-Semitism and the way that societies look for scapegoats to destroy. These are important themes for all of us to grapple with. There is indeed something more than the war of good and bad, and it is up to us to see the ambiguity not only in others but in ourselves as well.

This Again

If it seems to you that 2020 is a real-life version of the movie Groundhog Day, where the same patterns repeat over and over again, you are not alone. For so many of us stuck at home, each day is the same. What started out as a nice break from the hectic rat race, a chance to catch up on books or TV shows, is now itself a dreary routine. We are desperate for a return to our old life with the promise of the vaccine.

The pandemic has also moved in waves as infections explode for a while in certain areas and then diminish as the disease spreads to new locations where COVID had previously been contained. It’s a constant game of whack-a-mole, and Israelis are now feeling this sense of déjà vu as they enter their third lockdown since April.

The country must surely feel like the characters in Groundhog Day, as they go back to the kinds of restrictions that we in the US have not experienced. While we called our experience in the spring a “lockdown”, we were never required by law to stay within 1 kilometer of our house like Israelis will be forced to do again for at least two weeks.

Israel is trying to tamp down a surge in COVID cases even as it attempts an ambitious plan to vaccinate everyone in the country in a matter of only a few months. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Saturday became the first Israeli to receive the vaccine and did so on live television. One benefit of being a small country with a little over 9 million people, is that it may be possible for it to indeed succeed in becoming the first vaccinated country in the world.

But while one hospital in Israel celebrated its first vaccines with a dance party, the country also had to deal with different type of Groundhog Day moment, another round of national elections in March 2021, the fourth in 2 years. The national unity government of Netanyahu and Benny Gantz collapsed when the Knesset failed to pass a budget and the coalition split.

I am no prognosticator, but I find it hard to believe that the political situation will change much after this 4th election. The parties may be different, some of the players changed, but Israel is clearly a divided country that mostly leans to the right. The major question will be the fate of Netanyahu. As Yossi Klein Halevi writes, the prime minister is at once the country’s “most talented leader and our most destructive politician”.

Even as he is under indictment, Netanyahu has brought historic normalization of relations with Arab countries and the possibility of full vaccination for the nation even as politics in the country have deteriorated into an almost ungovernable situation. Perhaps as Israel begins to reach a level of herd immunity it can also return to a more stable form of politics as well. After all, even Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day eventually found a way to break the endless routine.

Close Enough

Hanukkah menorahs come in all shapes and sizes. In our house we have one decorated with basketball players, several handmade versions by both adults and children, one in the shape of Noah’s ark that was given to our children but now used by me, and one “traditional” hanukkiah (Hanukkah lamp) that resembles the original menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Talmud (Shabbat 21b) states that the mitzvah of Hanukkah is only to light one light per household each night, which is why the Rabbis constantly refer to ner Hanukkah, the “Hanukkah light” rather than the Hanukkah lights (in ancient times oil and wicks, rather than candles, were used). The more pious way to celebrate was to light one light per person in the household each night. For example, if you have 5 people living in your home, you would light 5 lights each night.

These are rituals no one follows today because ironically, Hanukkah is the holiday in which everyone, from the most secular to the ultra-Orthodox, celebrates in the most pious fashion possible in the view of the Talmud, which is that one should light their lights according to day of the festival – one for the first day, two for the second day, etc.

We don’t think of this as particularly special, but that is because we don’t appreciate the expense of oil. For many Jews in ancient times, their oil was expensive and used for cooking as well as light, but the Hanukkah lights cannot be used for any benefit. Instead the hanukkiah is meant only to publicize the miracle of the holiday. Multiple lights per household would be a major sacrifice of precious resources.

Traditional Jewish sources have little to say about the shape of the hanukkiah. The lights have to be distinguishable from one another and on the same horizontal plain, but other than that, there aren’t many rules. In time, however, many hanukkiot began to be shaped in the form of what we take to be the ancient menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem. After all, the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil for the menorah that lasted 8 days.

The problem with associating the hanukkiah with the menorah is that it can create confusion. It was many years until I realized that the menorah in the Temple had all seven branches lit each day. I thought that it was lit like our hanukkiot: one on Sunday, two on Monday, etc. Hanukkah lamps in the shape of menorahs might seem like the “traditional” ones, but actually they are just as artificial as my Noah’s ark version.

These “menorah” hanukkiot allow us to bring a bit of the ancient Temple into our homes. We only use them once a year, but they sit on our shelves as beautiful displays reminding us of our connection to the most sacred space in our tradition. And the menorah is certainly the loveliest of Temple implements. Few, I imagine, would like to have a replica of the sacrificial altar on their mantle.

The rabbis of the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 24b – 25a) actually prohibited us from creating our own versions of the Temple or its accessories, including the menorah. Perhaps they wanted to prevent people from creating their own sanctuaries, which would lead to lots of little temples and religious chaos. It may be that the hanukkiah in the shape of the menorah was a way for us to get around this prohibition. The rabbis specifically allow a menorah with eight lamps. It’s not exactly the original, but for the important purpose of memory, it’s close enough.