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be proud

12/17/2020 05:01:50 PM

Dec17

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

The most frequently referenced English name for Chanukah is The Festival of Lights, which is a direct translation of the Hebrew phrase used to greet people – hag ha-urim. We have witnessed a different type of light this year, and it is not of the standard candle flame nor electric type. It is the light of Divinely-inspired creativity. The pandemic has certainly taxed our imaginations, for there is only so much lemonade one can squeeze of out lemons. Judging by comments and photographs that people have posted on social media, there is a lot of lemonade out there. Permit me to share some examples.

People making latkes for the first time. People using technology to make latkes simultaneously with other people. People eating latkes at the same time via technology. Concerts galore by almost every Cantor that I know. Pick an evening; there are so many to choose from (my son Aaron and I gave a concert on the first evening of Chanukah). There are a wide variety of games and activities for children and adults made available, many of them free. You can find virtual spinning dreidel games and escape rooms. Many people have done charitable works to help others in need. The list can continue.

As one of the oldest continual religious civilizations on this planet, the Jews have certainly faced an extraordinary set of challenges. Indeed, the basis of Chanukah was the attempt to forcibly convert the entire Jewish population that resided in their homeland of ancient Israel around the year 165 BCE.  Adaptability has been a crucial element over the millennia, and the current pandemic is no different.

For those who are comfortable with the use of technology on Shabbat and Festivals, the minyan went on-line, text study is presented through a variety of interactive modalities, people planned Virtual Sedarim, and families light the Chanukah menorah through their phones. Not only have there been creative solutions to the challenges faced this year, but a growth in engagement in activities that promote tzedakah, other acts of hesed and social justice causes.

The Divine spark that God implanted in each human being has shown brilliantly through so many people. I recently read about an anonymous person paying off the entire layaway charges at a large store so that people now afford their holidays gifts. I also read about someone paying off utility bills for those who cannot afford them, as people were in danger of losing heat and light. Selfless acts like this remind all of us that the vast majority of humanity is comprised of good, decent people. We just give too much attention to the bad.

This Chanukah has brought to fruition the hopes conveyed in the chorus of the wonderful song by Peter Yarrow, “Light One Candle”: Don’t let the light go out; its lasted for so many years. So many of you have heeded these prophetic words. It makes us all proud to be Jewish.

Sun, January 17 2021 4 Shevat 5781