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Rabbi's Week in Review - 12/19/2022

12/19/2022 03:37:53 PM

Dec19

At our annual Congregation Kol Ami Chanukah celebration, I mentioned that there may have been a certain ambivalence toward the holiday. The Talmud seems to give short shrift to it relative to our other festivals. It has multiple themes that are not necessarily in concert with one another.

On one level, it celebrates a military victory — the victory of the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) over Hellenism. It is a celebration of religious freedom, albeit a freedom gained by means of guerilla warfare. Further, while the Maccabees fought against having Hellenism forced upon them, other Jews, particularly the Jewish aristocracy, embraced their Hellenistic conquerors.  

In that sense, Chanukah becomes a polemic against assimilation. The focus shifts from defeating our enemies to how we see ourselves. The way in which we identify as Jews defines who we are and how we contribute to a better, more healed world. This becomes more challenging during times of increased anti-Semitism, but even more important to hold on to the strength of our values.

So as we light our Chanukah menorahs and proudly display them in the windows of our homes for all to see, let us dedicate ourselves, on this holiday of dedication, to a world of light — the light of our Jewish values and of our best selves. Let us define ourselves by whom we are for, and not in relation to whom we oppose.

Sun, February 5 2023 14 Shevat 5783