Hanukkah means "dedication." It celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE after it had been desecrated by the Seleucids. And in our time, it can also be an opportunity to (re)dedicate ourselves to the sacred work we do.
People are sad. Some are tired or scared or anxious. Many of us are looking for hope and recognizing that there are no easy answers.
What we do have is each other. And the opportunity to come together this Shabbat, and in the days, weeks, and months ahead, to recommit to being a congregation, a community, and a country that does not lose hope, that is dedicated to fighting fear and hate, and that will bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.
Our next Jewish holiday falls on Tuesday, November 6.
In Judaism we believe that dina malchuta dina, that the law of a secular government still governs our lives. However, for much of Jewish history, Jews were unable to vote for their secular leaders, and could hardly imagine the privilege of being able to do so today. That historical narrative alone makes Election Day worthy of holiday status. We were in peril, and now we are free. Sound familiar?
Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days. Then he found the words to pray to God. He said, “Karati mitzarah li el-Adonai va’ya’ah’nei’ni; mibeten Sheol shivati, shamatah koli.” “I called out to Adonai in my distress, and God answered me; I cried out from the belly of the netherworld, and You heard my voice.”
Artistic representations of the Akeidah, Genesis 22:1-19, number in the thousands. And although the binding of Isaac is perhaps not so frequently highlighted in children’s bible books, it is discussed in countless literary works. Of course, this in part reflects the deep significance this story holds in not just the Jewish, but in the Muslim and Christian traditions. In the Quran, it is told with Ishmael, rather than Isaac, as the son God chooses for the sacrifice. And of course in Christian tradition the story is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus.
Hagar and her son were dying. Thrown out from their home at Sarah’s bidding, abandoned in the wilderness, and dying of thirst. Unable to watch her child die, Hagar separated herself from him, and wept. And then something changed. Within a few verses our story changes from Ishmael’s seemingly inevitable death to him becoming the ancestor of a great nation. So what happened that enabled such dramatic change?