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my favorite thing

12/09/2021 09:10:21 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Every now and then I am asked what my favorite Jewish holiday is. Over time my answer changes, based upon prior experiences. Certainly with a rather full year of choices, a case can be made for any of them, as each has special meaning, interesting customs, and of course good food. Even our most sacred day of the year – Yom Kippur – is about food, or rather, the lack thereof. Upon reflection, I could most probably state that I have favored each holiday at some point in my life. Then came 10.27, and as you might expect, so much changed. That includes the holiday that is most meaningful to me. That holiday is Chanukah.

Despite the cute little story that the Rabbis of the Talmud invented about the miracle of oil, that is not what Chanukah is about. The goal of the Syrian-Greeks 2200 years ago was to assimilate the Jewish population of ancient Israel into their society. Many succumbed under fear of death, except for one small group led by the son of the High Priest. Judah recognized how severe the threat to Jewish existence was, and his small group rebelled. Incredibly, with God’s good graces, they were victorious. Few might know or acknowledge how great was the threat to the survival of the Jewish people. It is indeed important to understand that had not Judah and his band of Maccabees been victorious, it is very possible that Judaism would have disappeared completely. Yes, it was a grave time. In the end, the desire for a minority to continue to practice its faith became an important message for all time. The Holy Temple that had been defiled by the Syrian-Greeks was cleaned and restored, and the Jewish practices were resumed. To celebrate this renewal, they held a rededication of the Holy Temple. Thus we have inherited the named Chanukah, which means “rededication”.

The story of the Tree of Life parallels the story of Chanukah. A minority was threatened with extinction simply for being Jewish. Their Holy Temple was defiled. We have responded to the world by demonstrating resiliency and all that is beautiful about Judaism. We are undergoing the lengthy process of rededication. Some will say “what’s taking you so long” and some will say “why the rush”. In this unprecedented event, with no guidebook, we are endeavoring to do our best, and I have total confidence that the world will be delighted with the end results. The recent generous gift from Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania of $6.6 million demonstrates not just to us but to all that there is incredible support for what we want to accomplish, confidence that we will do it right, and encouragement from our elected leaders, of whom there are so many to thank. The Governor’s timing of his announcement during Chanukah was an impeccable gift.

There is still much work to accomplish, but accomplish it we will. It is too soon to suggest any timetable, but rest assured that one day soon we will re-open, and offer to the world our own Chanukah, as we state in the loudest voice possible that evil did not triumph.

Sun, August 7 2022 10 Av 5782