FROM THE RABBI’S DESK

 

 

 

 November/December 2019

 

During the Maccabean war (circa 163 B.C.E.) Judaism was faced with the alternative of either renouncing its existence or fighting for its life. Some unknown, unsung hero in that time of darkness, despair, gloom and persecution hid a small container of sacramental oil for future need. Because of her/him we were able to survive the powerful onslaught of international, cosmopolitan Hellenism and Antiochian oppression. And we survived intact. Just like that tiny jar of oil which should have been exhausted/extinguished in a few hours but miraculously lasted and gave light & warmth for many days and nights--so too, our people were supposed to have vanished many ages ago but inexplicably we are still here kindling Hannukah lamps. All reasonable and respected observers of culture and history agreed that this tiny nation of Israel was soon to become a forgotten relic of the past. But our Hannukah hero enabled us to reestablish legitimate Jewish worship, practice and belief.

 

While the dedications of both the first and second Temples in ancient Jerusalem were celebrated with powerful pageantry and high ritual solemnity, the dates of these sacred events were never recorded on the Jewish calendar and were not observed or commemorated by our people (Just as the books of the Maccabees were never preserved by the Jewish people). However, the re-dedication of the Temple (Hannukah) is a joyful and treasured festival lasting for eight days and nights; an all time, universally favored Jewish holiday. Our Sages emphasize that when something is "brand new" like a place of worship, a marriage, a new birth/ life, a home, etc. dedication is automatic & instantaneous. Our enthusiasm and passion cannot be restrained. We are thrilled by the newness and novelty of it all. However, with the passage of time we take things for granted and become "used" to the change. The secret element which Hanukkah endorses is "re-dedication". When the baby is no longer a brand new-born infant and has continually been depriving the parents of regular sleep for months--what is needed and most essential (besides some restful peace) is a sense of re-dedication to this new life and its growth and development. We must reinvigorate our passion for and commitment to the ancient values and wisdom of our tradition regardless of its antiquity. Adding new lights and flames each night speak to this need for nurturing and cultivating our spiritual lives. If we fail to regularly increase the light, darkness will grow and envelope us. The perennial struggle between light & darkness represented by Hannukah reformulated the truths taught to us by our heritage: only the way of sacrifice leads to overcoming the chaos, darkness, hatred, ignorance and anarchy of the world. Our task remains bringing great light and knowledge to this world and kindling new lights of hope & life wherever we can. May the radiance & warmth of our celebration be a blessing of love for all to share & behold.

  

Hag Sammayach!