With the holiday season in full bloom, the Jewish community rejoices in the fun and happiness associated with Chanukah.
Actually, B’nai Israel got a jump on the Chanukah season when we celebrated our 60th anniversary this past month with over 200 people coming through the building. That was a Chanukah in its own right, the true meaning of the word by which the holiday is known: Rededication. The overwhelm of our celebration manifested in seeing so many ways that those who came before us as well as longer standing members among us, recalling the old days, were acknowledged, in pictures, in descriptions and in videos of celebrations and precious moments from the past. The 60th was a day for rededication for us all to continue building and weaving memories of community, times shared by so many of us now involved, and those who will make B’nai Israel home in the future.
How special it will be, our “official” Chanukah in this month of holiday celebration, continuing to build on the energy of joy associated with our community. How rewarding it is to have Chanukah following this and so many other simchas and momentous occasions in B’nai Israel. It is a good way to revisit Chanukah’s core purpose and intent as a significant holiday, apart from the common associations we have of decorations and gift giving. In fact, it is useful to recall that even the Maccabees were focused more on what we celebrated than what people commonly associate with the holiday; for them, it was an opportunity to do in December what they could not do in October, celebrate Jewish community, as in the rededication of the Temple in the spirit of King Solomon who dedicated the original Temple as part of the eight day joyous holiday of Sukkot.
The real focus of the Maccabees was on recapturing the spirit of the Jewish people and their understanding that community, and structure for community, i.e. the Temple , was the only way the people would continue. For them, the issue was the people understanding that the reason for their victory over the Syrian branch of the Greek empire was to assure Jewish identity and continuity in a larger world that lived by different values.
As the larger world in which we live continues to wonder how we will survive and move through difficult times, in B’nai Israel, our celebration of sixty years in our own “Temple” is testimony that when you have community founded on and grounded in values of “we”, rather than “I”, dedicated to sharing good times as well as difficult and challenging periods, then you can assure your continuity no matter what the obstacles.
We are left with our memories of the sixtieth to dedicate our Chanukah this year to more than latkes, candles, decorations and presents; ours is a legacy that lives dynamically year round, with the Sukkot holiday that originally inspired Chanukah, as well as Passover, Shavuot, Days of Awe and the big ongoing celebration of Shabbat which we from time to time “spice up” with wonderful B’nai Mitzvah, youngsters taking their places as new building blocks for our community. In fact, what a way to celebrate the Shabbat of this coming Chanukah: welcoming yet another leader, David Noonan.
I look forward to Chanukah with all of you in this year 5769. I pray that whatever challenges and overwhelm we may face in the broader context of society, we will each feel the strength of caring and support that is in the nature of what it was the Maccabees vouched safe some 2200 years ago. Our synagogue shares a small slice of that history, but it is all connected, as are we all, and in that connection we have much strength to derive from one another and the precious teachings and traditions that we honor by being who we are: B’nai Israel.