More Light on Chanukahby Rabbi Jeff Clopper
As you read this article, the lights of Chanukah most likely are behind us. The menorah is wrapped up with a few small wax reminders of this year’s lightings. But they will sit dormant in cupboards and closets, ready to come out again when next Chanukah comes.
I always love seeing the candles dancing gracefully in their holders; the lights reflected in the windows as we sing the blessing for lighting the chanukiah (the Chanukah menorah). In my neighborhood, and I imagine most neighborhoods in the greater Huntington area, while Christmas lights twinkle at most homes, the few scattered menorahs still are a welcomed site. They are a reminder that there are others who share this beautiful heritage that encourages us both to light lights AND to be a source of light.
I wish we could add several more branches to the chanukiah. Not so much to extend the holiday (and any need for additional presents); rather, it just feels that in the darkness of these days, adding more and more light gives us hope. With winter’s official start in December, we currently see the shortest amount of daylight. On top of that natural darkness, add the ever-present gloom that comes from any number of adversities, including struggles with finances, health, relationships, work, and family, not to mention greater upheaval in the world of politics or personal rights and freedoms. Of course, the constant persistence of anti-Semitism surfacing almost on a daily basis doesn’t help matters.
When there is light, we feel warmer. We can see more clearly what (and sometimes who) is right in front of us. With a little added light, we can better find our way forward and feel prepared for what life might have in store, both good and bad. Even in darkest times, though, I marvel at this community because I know this synagogue, and the people who are part of it (and yes, that means YOU!!), do so much to increase the light in our world. Each can of food, wrapped present, pet supply, and dollar collected, every little bit, add more light to this world. Perhaps that is why the best response to darkness is committing to add more and more light.
I am reminded of the two great rabbinic houses, Hillel and Shammai. When discussing the chanukiah, Shammai wanted the practice to start the first night with all 8 candles lit and then subtract one for each following night. However, Hillel said we should start with one and add one more each night as a symbol of how we should add more light with each passing day. As you might have guessed, Hillel won the argument and not just because he was a nicer guy, but because his message held more sway. Bring more light, adding to it each day, and we can dispel the darkness (or hopefully keep it at bay for a while).
Now that Chanukah has ended and 2023 lies just ahead, I hope it will prove to be a better year for all. More importantly, I hope we can continue to work together in the months ahead to strengthen one another and the people of the Greater Huntington community through continued acts of kindness, compassion, and understanding. Each interaction is an opportunity to see through any darkness and create many moments of warmth and light.
May the future ahead be bright and joyous for everyone!
Chanukah and Gift Givingby Peter Wayne, Chai Club President
For Jews around the world, Chanukah is marked by lighting candles on the menorah for eight nights, eating latkes and spinning the dreidel. But with the holiday’s start, many Jewish Americans are focused on another tradition: gift-giving.
Chanukah celebrates the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem around 200 B.C., and how a small amount of oil miraculously lasted for eight nights. As the story is described in the first and second Books of Maccabees rather than the Bible, Chanukah is deemed less important religiously than other holidays like Passover, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the holiday gained some traction in the U.S.
By the early 1900’s, American Jews had become accustomed to seeing Christmas gift giving flourish. Not wanting their children to feel left out as their peers received presents every December, Jewish parents adopted the gift giving custom, creating joy for their children on Chanukah. Evidence of the shift can be seen in Yiddish-language U.S. newspapers from the 1920s, which would advertise the giving of gifts in honor of Chanukah.
With the tradition of gift giving at Chanukah ingrained in our Jewish culture, let me introduce you to the tradition of giving a Chanukah gift to Temple Beth El’s Chai Tribute Fund. Your gift can be given to honor, provide well wishes, or memorialize friends and loved ones. And if you’re a Chai Club member, you’re eligible to provide recommendations to the Chai Club Board for expenditures on specific projects, equipment, or other needs that benefit TBE and the membership! You can make a gift to TBE’s Chai Tribute Fund online at www.tbeli.org or contact Lisa Bennett in the temple office. On behalf of the Chai Club Board, I want to wish you a joyous Chanukah, and good health and happiness in the New Year!
Put Temple Beth El On Your Giving List!
It’s that time of the year when many people are considering giving their support to worthy organizations. It’s a time to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity and we hope you’ll think of Temple Beth El. Your donation helps to cover the costs of our operating expenditures. Whether you’re putting together your ‘giving list’ for the holidays or preparing last minute donations for the 2022 tax year, please consider Temple Beth El in your planning. Donations can also be made through our website at www.tbeli.org. If you need more information, please call the temple office. May the New Year usher in a time of joy and well-being for you and your family.
Ner Tamid: Planned Giving
Join those who have made a provision for Temple Beth El in planning their estate. Your gift helps to assure the long-term viability of the temple. If you have already included the temple in your estate plan and would like to be recognized, or for more information, please call (631) 421-5835.
You can contribute by:
- Making a bequest to the temple in your will
- Making a gift of stocks or securities
- Making a life-income charitable gift annuity
- Making a gift using real estate
Do you work for a company that makes matching donations to non-profit organizations? Your Partnership Pledge, and other donations to Temple Beth El, are eligible for a matching donations. This is a great way to maximize your contribution! Call (631) 421-5835 for information.
Banter Over Brunch
Our monthly brunches have been a resounding success providing an opportunity to discuss issues of importance, new ideas, and offer suggestions for a way forward in this post-COVID world. All Partner households are being invited and your invitation will arrive soon! A big THANK YOU to those who have already attended. For everyone else, keep an eye out for your invitation.
Aside from enjoying the wonderful food (provided by Brotherhood and the Chai Club) we’ve enjoyed the camaraderie so missed during pandemic shutdowns. Need more information? Contact Patti Kresner at PresElect@tbeli.org or Lisa in the temple office at (631) 421-5835.