Rabbi’s Message: Nov.-Dec. 2017

Here to Stay

Shevah yipol tzadik v’kayam / A righteous person may fall seven times but rises again each time.
Mishley (Proverbs) 24:15

Kal Knesset shehi l’shem Shamayim l’hitkayam / Any assembly that is truly for the sake of God will be successful.
Pirkey Avot (Chapters/Teachings of the Fathers/Sages) 4:11

It’s very clear
Our love is here to stay
Not for a year, but ever and a day

The radio
And the telephone
And the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies and in time may go

But oh my dear
Our love is here to stay
Together we’re going a long long way

In time the Rockies may crumble
Gibraltar may tumble
They’re only made of clay
But our love is here to stay
“Love Is Here to Stay,” lyrics by Ira Gershwin


As I write this, soon we will be partaking in two celebratory times that most of us look forward to each year. On our civil calendar we will find Thanksgiving, and on our Jewish calendar Chanukah stands out.

Actually, there is an important link between the two. Chanukah is for many the most “secular” of our Jewish holidays. There are no restrictions as one finds for Shabbat or Yom Tov; and besides the legend of the miraculous cruse of sanctified olive oil that lasted for eight days following the rededication of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), the story is usually understood as one of a military rebellion for religious freedom against an occupying power. Thanksgiving is also thought of as purely “secular,” as it is generally observed as a day off from work for feasting and overeating on turkey, trimmings, and calorie-laden deserts while gathering with family for congeniality, schmoozing, arguing, and more eating.

The truth is that there is an integral link to both holidays. The day of stuffing oneself with stuffing, turkey, and pumpkin pies is called “Thanksgiving.” So who are we giving thanks to? And for what? Thanksgiving once had a more religious, but universal religious, theme. We were to focus on thanking God. The legend of the pilgrims munching with Native American pals was to inform us to be thankful to God for what we have and to be thankful for having it here in America. Thanksgiving was once more patriotically oriented and more God focused before it became a day of frenzied sales, football games, and the like. Thanksgiving was supposed to be a day of strengthening the American spirit and love of God and country.

Chanukah, of course, means dedication. The Maccabees rededicated the Temple, but they did what they did because of their dedication, dedication that was motivated through their intense love of God and Judaism.

Judaism has always faced challenges. We have survived and thrived all of these centuries because we held on to our love and dedication to God, Torah, and Israel (the Jewish people).

America has faced great challenges throughout her short history, a history that may be short, but the USA is the longest-lasting true democratic republic in the world today. America is here for us today, giving us liberty, prosperity, and freedom because of love and dedication to God and country. I include God because our country was founded on the concept of “natural law,” which proposes that all of our civil rights come from God and that they are not something graciously granted (and can be rescinded) by a king or a government. That concept is enshrined in our constitution.

As long as we celebrate and live our lives with love for and dedicated to God, Torah, America, and our fellow Jews, we will continue to have much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving and Chanukah.

Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah Samayach,

[The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Bellerose Jewish Center.]