One of the great beauties of our faith is its focus on the positive. Chanukah is a case in point. We all learn and celebrate the miracle of the rededication of the Holy Temple and the single cruse of pure oil that kept the Temple Menorah lit for eight days when it should only have lasted one day. However, the miracle that made it possible to reclaim the Temple in the first place was that the small group of the militarily unsophisticated Maccabees could overcome the mighty armies of the Greeks. Nevertheless, we choose to celebrate the miracle of the oil, a lovely tale, symbolic of the truly Jewish message of bringing light to a world that can sometimes be very dark. We do not glory in war or in the death of others. The Passover story is another example. Pharaoh’s armies pursued us and his armies were destroyed. Yet, we spill wine in their memory to show that our joy can never be complete when victory and salvation come with such a heavy price. So we sing of the miracle of the oil and give only minor mention of the miracle of the defeat of the mightiest army of the world at that time—a war that was completely forced upon our people. Golda Meir came to her quote honestly when she famously said that she could forgive Arab countries for killing our children, but she could not forgive them for forcing us to kill theirs. Jews do not like taking life. Just the opposite. It is our culture, faith and tradition to value life in every way. It is for that reason that the Israelis send warnings to the innocents of war to do everything possible to avoid unnecessary human suffering. Israeli doctors and hospitals give treatment to their sworn enemies. To our people, every life is sacred.
Our love of life plays out in how we recall Chanukah and plays out to this day. It is our mission as Jews to each be a light in this world and to increase our light as we daily increase the number lights in the Chanukiya. May your light and lights burn brightly this Chanukah and always.
Our Shabbat Torah Study Program is taking a short break and will resume on January 10th. In the meantime, Adat Shalom Synagogue continues to offer beautiful services as well as exceptional other Shabbat morning programs such as Soulful Yoga at 10 a.m. with Rabbi Shere and yoga instructor Mindy Eisenberg. It is an opportunity to learn Torah principles in a new way, connecting body and soul and applying the wisdom of Torah to the gentle practice of yoga. No yoga experience necessary. Dress comfortably. For more information on this program, feel free to email Rabbi Shere at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Would someone please send me a note this afternoon to remind me that it is our tradition to light the Chanukah candles BEFORE the Shabbat candles tonight?