Where Have I been

Dear Friends and Readers

I have been a bit AWOL as 2015 begins.  That’s because I have been busier than ever!

Kol Ami is growing and program-wise thriving!  Our building is getting refreshed and I am so exicited.  Here is the an article that appeared in WEHOVILLE  about the amazing refurbishing and renewal at Kol Ami!  Come by for a visit.

This week alone is an amazing program on Thursday night about Jews from the Middle East  cosponsored with JIMENA–with a panel about Jews from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Egypt and their traditions.

Friday night for Shabbat evening services we will be blessed with the amazing poetry of Alden Solovy who is one of the most interesting people. He is from Jerusalem. He is a poet and prayer writer.  Here is the link to his wonderful spiritual blog. And he will be bringing his insights to us as a way to touch our deepest spirits.

Saturday night you don’t want to miss our Cabaret, fundraiser headed by Glenn Rosenblum, David Kaminski and others….

AND on Sunday if you are in your 20’s and 30’s our Kol Atid group is having an OSCAR VIEWING Party at Kol Ami
And then Purim on March 7 at 7;30 pm with our annual crazy Purim Schpiel….. So get ready to roll to an reinvigorated, dynamic Congregation Kol Ami–where there is something for everyone!

Kol-Ami-Exterior-Color-Stripes (1)

The Real Miracle of Chanukah

Tonight we will light both Chanukah lights and Shabbat lights.  One we can use and one we cannot.  According to the Talmud-the Shabbat lights can be used.  You can read by the light of the Shabbat tapers!  But Chanukah lights you can not use.  No reading by the light of the menorah.  The light of Chanukah is only to look at and to be reminded of the great miracle of Chanukah!

There is a great debate about what is the actual miracle of Chanukah. Some say it is the story in the Talmud Shabbat 21b:

What is the reason for Chanukah? For our Rabbis taught: On the 25th of Kislev begin the days of Chanukah, which are eight, during which lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils in it, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they [the Hasmoneans] searched and found only one cruse of oil which possessed the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient oil for only one day’s lighting; yet a miracle occurred there and they lit [the lamp] for eight days. The following year these days were appointed a Festival with the recitation of Hallel and thanksgiving.

This is the traditional answer. As I shared with you on night two the teaching of Rabbi David Hartman z’l, my teacher the miracle of the Maccabees was not that it lasted but they had the courage to light the Menorah in the temple on the first night knowing that they didn’t have enough oil to last. They lit it anyway- not knowing what the future would bring!

Others say the miracle is the fact that the Macabee army defeated the most powerful army in the world! After a raging and often bloody three year war the Macabees recaptured the temple and rededicated it ushering in a time of Jewish sovereignty.  That is the miracle of Chanukah too-a true Jewish nation!

And yet others teach the miracle of Chanukah is the light itself.  The Light is symbolic of God’s Presence here on earth. If you read the TANACH, each time the temple is dedicated or rededicated God takes up residence in the holy space with a power light.  It is God that is in the light that beams forth from our Menorot.  It is God’s presence in our lives that helps to brings light to a dark world at the darkest time of year.   That is why this is indeed the Festival of Lights.

There are lots of miracle to go around!  So give thanks for this holiday, for family and friends, and indeed for God’s light showing us the way!

Assimilation and Chanukah

Chanukah is anything but a child’s holiday.  Oh we have made it into a time for children with presents, and dreidles and silly Chanukah songs.  But this is a holiday that commemorates the conclusion of a brutal war.  The Syrian-Greek army against the priestly family and descendants of Mattethias who defended the rights of the Jews to worship and the ancient Temple from the Hellenizers-those Jews who would assimilate.  The irony is that in America where Jews are assimilating into the larger culture (according to the Pew Study) at an alarming rate, Chanukah is widely observed.  And yet the message of Chanukah is to resist assimilation to the larger secular and in the Maccabees’ time idolatrous culture.

The true message of the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees was the re-establishment of true Jewish sovereignty. For the first time since the Davidic monarchy Jews ruled over themselves.  Chanukah not only commemorates the rededication of the Temple but the defeat of Greek culture and religion and the return of a priestly family to power.  The Hasmonean dynasty would barely last 150 years as soon the Hasmonean dynasty made a deal with Rome-the successor to the Greeks!

So on this third night of Chanukah–proclaim your Jewish identity proudly, light your menorah and think about the ideals of Jewish sovereignty as they are played out today in Israel.  Ask a lot of questions about the balance of the larger culture with Jewish culture in your own life? How assimilated are you? What does Chanukah ask of your Jewish faith and identity?

Let It Shine Let It Shine Let It Shine

For the second night of Chanukah we should think about the idea of “pirsum et haMitzvah”  The commandment to publicize or promote the the lighting of the chanukiah.  Our rabbinic ancestors thought we should place our chanukiah in the window to show and share the light of Chanukah!  Of course there were times in our history when doing so would have been too dangerous and so the light had to be contained.  But now more than ever we the Jewish people do have light to be shared with everyone.  We have a prophetic tradition that calls upon each of us to stand up for those who can’t and we have a calling as the Jewish people to share the light of Torah and God with others.  So as the old spiritual says… This little light of mine I’m gonna’ let it shine…Let it shine let it shine let it shine!

Tonight on this Second night of Chanukah—do just that! Let your inner light shine.  Let God’s light bathe you and your family and friends and uplift your spirits.  And let the light of justice burn brightly in these difficult times.  Let it shine let it shine let it shine!