Religious : : Thoughts from Our Rabbi
We don’t know if they are mentally unstable. We don’t know if they are anti- social.
We don’t know if they think our skin is not white enough. We don’t know if they think our hair is too curly, or too kinky, or too frizzy. We don’t know if they think our noses are too crooked or too big. We don’t know if they think our last names have too many syllables and did not come from Plymouth Rock. We don’t know if they think we have too much power, and if we control the banking industry, the global media, and the world order.
We do know how to respond. We should light a candle to banish the darkness. We should celebrate Shabbat by being here at Temple Judea with our families and our friends and our community. We should clop our chest compelling us to be our best selves. We should dance with the Torah on our holidays. We should celebrate the birthday of the Trees. We should dress in costume, drink a schnapps, make some noise to drown out Haman’s name. We should throw candy to sweeten the day and life of our B’nai Mitzvah. We should ask the Four Questions, fill Elijah’s and Miriam’s cups, sing Dai-yenu. We should eat blintzes and cheesecake at the giving of our Torah.
We should know at December time in 1776 the small Jewish population was spread throughout colonial New England. What is most remarkable about the Jews was their devotion to the ideals of the American Revolution. Many embraced John Winthrop’s preaching that America was to be “a city on a hill.” For them, America’s quest for independence was reminiscent of David’s quest to establish Jerusalem.
A number of Jewish soldiers fought with the Continental Army. In fact, rumor has it that General George Washington first learned of Hanukkah while at Valley Forge. The rumor states that General Washington was intrigued by a private’s odd looking candlestick. Upon questioning the private, Washington learned of Hanukkah. Allegedly the solder recounted to the General the history of Hanukkah, and how the holiday commemorated the victory of the Jews over a superior tyrannical force. As the legend goes, Washington then thanks the private saying, “Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees’ success, though it is long past…It pleases me to think that miracles still happen.”
Washington is said to have later paid this same private a visit after the war. The name of the solder, has also become a topic of debate among historians. In fact, the whole Hanukkah tale itself has attracted both supporters and skeptics, each hoping to prove – or disprove – the validity of Washington’s first encounter with Hanukkah.
Come at 5:30 pm each night to light our outdoor menorah and make a point to join us to celebrate on Sunday December 29 as we light the eighth candle together.
B’vrachot, blessings, Rabbi Dennis