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“Miracle” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

December 16, 2022 | 22 Kislev 5783

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

On Sunday night, we begin the holiday of Chanukah. In these moments, in our own day when we might feel like hiding or turning inward, the laws of the holiday command us to advertise the miracle. This means placing the Chanukiyah by the window for all to see.

Maimonides Laws of Chanukah clearly states:

…The sages of that generation ruled that the eight days beginning with the twenty-fifth of Kislev should be observed as days of rejoicing and praising the Eternal. Lamps are lit in the evening over the doors of the homes, on each of the eight nights, so as to publicize the miracle.

They used doors. Today, we have our windows. The candles only have one purpose. As one of the prayers we recite after we light the candles instructs:

We kindle these lights on account of the miracles, the deliverances and the wonders which You performed for our ancestors, in those days and in this season…During all the eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred, it is not permitted for us to make any use of them, but only to look at them, in order that we may give thanks to You…

Both of these references cite the miracle of the holiday. What was the miracle? Was it the oil burning for eight days when they thought it would only last one day? Was it the tenacity of the Maccabees to resist the tyrannical forces that wanted to destroy a Jewish way of life? The Talmud (Shabbat 21b) and the Book of Maccabees provided versions of the story with these details included. They are key components to the miracle story.

Every year around this time, I remember another Chanukah miracle, the now famous story of the community of Billings, Montana. In 1993, a young boy placed a picture of a Chanukah menorah in his bedroom window. That night, someone threw a brick and shattered the window as an act of vandalism by an antisemitic group. The Billings community launched a campaign to include everyone who lived there, whether they were Jewish or not. They invited people to decorate their windows with a chanukiyah or a picture of one. The response felt like its own miracle. Ten thousand people participated as a statement against religious hatred and intolerance. Their courage continues to inspire.

This year we publicize the miracle of those who join us and with whom we partner to display the strength we can offer to one another. That seems like the best miracle of all.

Shabbat Shalom!

  • Join us at 6:00 p.m. for Qabbalat Shabbat. All are welcome to join this service full of prayer and music. If you’re unable to join onsite, please join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or stream on our website. Let’s celebrate together.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathersonlineat 5:00 p.m.
  • Join us for Torah Study at 9:00 a.m. We begin with a short, informal morning service and then moves into an engaging, welcoming and inclusive Torah study for everyone and anyone. To join the conversation interactively online, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • Thank Goodness it’s Shabbat gathers at 10:00 a.m. onsite, followed by bagels and challah. No registration necessary. Contact Heidi Smith Hyde with questions
  • Gather online to say goodbye to Shabbat with lay led Havdallah on Zoom.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher