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A Moment of Reflection With Rabbi Lazar

01/06/2016 09:32:27 AM


These are difficult times. We are shocked almost daily by a wide variety of violent actions all across the globe. Naturally, those tragedies closer to us, whether geographically or socially, anger and scare us more, but in truth, we should be just as affected by the shear scope of killing and acts of hatred all over the planet. Very often - though not always - these acts stem from warped or simply evil interpretation of religion accompanied by a claim that this is what actually God wants. Needless to say, this is a far cry from what we in our congregation, as well as others throughout our local community, consider good religion.

Religion and any kind of interpretation of what God wants from us in our lives are meant to improve the human condition not bring about anguish and destruction. This sentiment was felt recently when clergy and parishioners from 5 neighboring churches and representatives of the local Transgender community, joined us for an inter-faith Kabbalat Shabbat that opened Gay Pride weekend here in Palm Springs. Praying together in celebration of not just tolerance and acceptance, but of lovingly embracing the “other,” were Jews and Christians of different denominations. This was a statement, loud and clear, that Temple Isaiah is a faith community determined to bring light to the darker corners of our society. Lighting up the darkness is the predominate theme of this season. Chanukah will soon be upon us and we will once again tell the story of how the tiny vile of oil, enough for only one day of light, lasted for eight. In our homes and at Temple events, we will slowly bring more light into the world each of the eight nights of the festival as we add another candle. While this story (first found in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b) might still be the most widespread explanation of why we keep eight days of Chanukah, there are a number of other, and quite frankly, far more plausible historical interpretations.

One source much closer to the actual events in the 2nd century BCE (1 Maccabees 4:54-56) implies that eight days of rededicating the Temple was learned from what King Hezekiah did in his day. And yet another ancient document (2 Maccabees 10:5-9) suggests that this was a “make up session” for the eight days of Sukkot that the Jews were unable to celebrate properly while the Temple was contaminated. Only later that year, in the month of Kislev, when the battle for Jerusalem was won, were they able to observe this pilgrimage festival. Still another source (Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 8b) speaks of 2 pagan eight-day festivals that were celebrated before and after the winter solstice (Dec. 21) that very well might have been the predecessor of not only Chanukah but Christmas as well! Whatever the explanation that speaks to you the most, we will have at least two opportunities to come together and light communally this year at Temple Isaiah at the Twice Blessed movie event on the third night (December 8 th) and at our Shabbat Chanukah potluck dinner on the 6th night (December 11th). This is a good time to reach out to our Christian neighbors during these days of Advent in which they too light candles. Perhaps use this common practice as an opportunity to discuss ways in which we together might spread light in our little part of the world.

Now is also a good time to be in touch with family members and friends in Israel who are still struggling with this latest wave of violent attacks. Sending them messages of love and support is an important way for us to create the light of hope for better times in the future. Spread light here in our o w n c o m m u n i t y b y contributing generously to our toiletries and laundry detergent drive that will benefit clients of the Roy’s Resource Center and join Christopher Greene and me in serving Christmas dinner at the Well in the Desert where over 1,500 needy locals will come to celebrate. But most importantly, let us not be drawn into the darkness by our own fears. For the ultimate goal of terrorism is exactly this. Whether there really was or wasn’t a small vile of oil that lasted eight days, we continue to tell the story of Chanukah miracle, if for no other reason than to reinforce our faith that in the end, light really will prevail. Hag Chanukah sameach!


Mon, December 10 2018 2 Tevet 5779