A Time to Rejoice


 

King Solomon, in his wisdom, taught that there is nothing new under the sun. Benjamin Franklin went further by declaring that there are only two things that are constant – death and taxes. Both expressions are lessons in life. We may think that there are things in life that are sure, but the reality is that generational continuance is the only constant, because without it everything we know would cease to be. So much for the examples offered by Solomon and Benjamin Franklin.

The glue that keeps life meaningful is also the knowledge that when we are a memory, the next episode of perseverance will occur. This has been and continues to be the design of creation. There was a beginning, but there is no end.

We do have a part in guaranteeing the future. All is not left in the hands of some mysterious force – the one we refer to as God. Our lives, and how we live them, play an active role in the original intent of creation. Traditions begin to take shape, and from these traditions develop customs and humanities connections. Society becomes the grouping of these concepts until we finally arrive at a concept of conduct and adherence.

Hanukkah is, and was, designed to teach these important aspects of attempting to understand our place. It started with love – the love of our Creator, and the love of all who are important in our lives. If memory is the glue for life’s meaning, then love is the cement that forms the foundation of the journey begun with our first breath.

Our pilgrimage encompasses compassion and strength. As we travel, we learn about awareness – the informed values enhanced by faith. Faith may seem like an abstract, but if we really think about it, we should realize that without faith there is no hope.

Our congregation will not be commemorating Hannukah this year (November 29- December 6) because it occurs in-between our November service and our December service. However, we have an opportunity to continue the traditions of this holiday in our homes which is where they are traditionally celebrated.

These traditions include but are not limited to the lighting of the Menorah commemorating the eight days of this festival as described in the Talmud; the eating of latkes, or other fried foods, to remind us of the oil used to light the Menorah in the Temple; the various games that are played with children and grandchildren to remind us of the joyous event of the survival of our faith. Some congregations read from the Book of the Maccabees in which the entire episode of the struggle for religious freedom can be found.

We cannot long forget that last year brought us agony and despair. Therefore, this year we should concentrate on gratitude and appreciation. This is important not only because we have survived this nightmare, but also because we need to understand and appreciate what salvation is.

A Midrash, I believe, explains it this way: “When the Angels objected to the creation of man, God replied: ‘And of what use are all the good things I have created unless people are there to enjoy them?’” Perhaps it should be the same for us. There is so much loveliness in the world regardless of the frightening episodes we encounter. In addition, we need to enhance the goodness that exists. Hanukkah does all this as we learn to understand the value and purpose of our beliefs and the fulfillment received from these traditions.

There may be nothing new under the sun, but perhaps we should realize that each day brings newness to our lives and that translates into hope for the future. No matter how one feels about holidays or celebrations, the truth remains that they are designed to enhance our lives and add meaning to them.

 

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D