- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 30, 2018
- 0 Comments
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 and support we can offer to one another. That seems like the best miracle of all.
We have chosen to focus on antisemitism for our Scholar in Residence weekend. Tonight Qabbalat Shabbat begins at 6:00 p.m., and we welcome Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor of The New York Times and author of (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump. After Jonathan tweeted an excerpt from an editorial about the rise of fascist tendencies in the US he found himself the target of the “alt-right.” He received a tidal wave of online hate, which forced him to face the startling state of American antisemitism. If you are unable to join us, live stream HERE. There is babysitting and a children’s program during Qabbalat Shabbat, and a community oneg to follow.
Join us tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. for Torah Study as we learn from the research and personal experiences Jonathan shares in (((Semitism))).
Scholar in Residence weekend continues at 4:00 p.m. with Havdalah followed by a panel conversation with our congregants, ADL Boston Executive Director Robert Trestan and ADL National Chair Esta Epstein, and moderated by Rabbi Elaine Zecher, as we consider our community’s recent and current responses to today’s antisemitism and the steps we can take going forward.
I look forward to your thoughts and reflections, please send them to me directly HERE.