Jewish tradition – the Torah, other sections of the Bible and the Talmud – have very little to say about Hanukah. In fact, the entire mention of Hanukah in the Talmud is limited to 7 short lines in the Talmud Tractate Shabbat (pg. 21). The discussion on that page briefly summarizes how the Chashomanayim – those whom we call “Maccabees” – found only one pure jug of oil remaining in the Temple after they had defeated and expelled the Greeks. As we all know, this single day’s worth of oil burned for eight days. The following year, on the anniversary of the miracle, the Sages “K’vaoom v’asaoom,” fixed and designated those days as a perpetual holiday, to be remembered with praise and thanksgiving. The miracle had to be publicized each year, so that it would not be forgotten. That is, the mitzvah of Hanukah is *publicizing* the miracle. Eating latkes, playing dreidel games, exchanging gifts and, of course, lighting the menorah are all for this one purpose – pirsumei d’nisa, publicizing the miracle of Hanukah and, thereby, keeping us connected with our Jewish ancestors.
This year, Hanukah fell quite “late,” in fact, it ran into early January – an unusual occurrence in the Jewish holiday calendar. It coincided this year with the school vacation week; quite atypical. We wondered at the JCCH – how will we publicize the miracle of Hanukah with so many of our JCCH families traveling elsewhere during the week of Hanukah? We asked whether people would bring their family heirloom menorahs in their suitcases, onto airplanes? So, we tried an experiment this year. We sent travel menorahs to the members of the synagogue with the reminder that these portable menorahs can go anywhere. We asked that people publicize the miracle of Hanukah wherever they were in the world; Hanukah need not be observed only at home. But, would people actually do this?
I invite you to turn to the centerfold page of this newsletter where Eve has compiled some of the 50+ menorah photos we received during the eight days of Hanukah! Thank you for sharing your many beautiful photos and even some video. Some people drove their portable menorahs to relatives homes; others checked them on the plane, and brought them to the far reaches of the globe. Most importantly, the menorahs were used and the miracle of Hanukah was publicized. The congregation is to be commended for fulfilling the ages-old Mitzvah of Hanukah as set by the ancient Rabbi/Sages in this new and creative way.
This was also a special year locally as, for the first time ever, downtown Harrison had a large and beautiful Menorah that was lit each night of the Festival. The Menorah was purchased by the Jewish Community Center of Harrison and stood between Harrison Town Hall and the Richard E. Halperin Memorial Library Building. Notably, the Menorah stood beside the Town’s Christmas Tree in this central town location and both the Menorah and the tree were ceremonially lit at the same time (by Father Guarnerie and myself). Long-time community members tell me that this is no small thing for Harrison and that we should be particularly proud to see this impressive menorah in our “town square.” Indeed, I am proud – that we publicized the miracle of Hanukah locally just as we publicized the miracle in our travels. Would you please take a moment to thank Mayor Belmont (firstname.lastname@example.org) for accepting our Menorah dedication so graciously?
Good wishes to all — for a wonderful 2017!