The Hope of Hanukkah-5782
Just as I was leaving for services in person at CRC on the new moon of Kislev, I had a call from the FBI. The agent said briefly that there had been a threat made, they were in the process of investigating, and he would be in touch. By the end of the Kabbalat Service, the person who had made the threats, someone who was already being watched, was taken into custody and all eyes were on us; FBI, the city police and our director of security from the Federation.
We were ready with practices and procedures in place as a congregation and as a community. We responded and the Jewish community has and will continue to monitor the antisemitic hate speech that has grown stronger in this age of fear and division. At no time were we in danger from this threat. The person who made the threats called the FBI to let them know that he was having these thoughts. He has mental health issues and the situation was taken very seriously. We will continue to update and put our safety precautions in place and we will continue to grow our allies by doing what we can to fill our holy spaces with kindness every chance we get. We learned that we need to work on more timely avenues of communication and commit to being as transparent as we are able to be. Security, open timely communication and trust are critical for having a healthy community and we are committed to making sure we have all three in place.
It happened that on that same Friday evening we were visited by a group of confirmation students from a UCC congregation in Illinois. They could see what was happening and I explained that this is what it means to be a targeted minority in America. I told them that antisemitism is the oldest hate of the human heart. At the end of the service each young person thanked us so warmly and I could tell that they would not tolerate this kind of hate on their watch.
With all of the challenges we continue to face, I still love the moon of Kislev!
She brings just enough light to carry us through the darkest time of the year. Just enough light to help us begin to re-open safely after so many months of not being together in person. Just enough light that together we can defy the darkness of fear and ignorance.
We have learned much during our COVID-closure and will continue to grow our capacity to reach those who are unable to be in-person, grow our ability to serve those who are most vulnerable, and grow the heart-space for the acts of generosity and kindness we have seen during these dark times.
On the 25th of Kislev, just as we are making room for the new moon of Tevet, we will be challenged to light the first candle of Hanukkah, knowing that long ago there was not enough oil to light even that one night.
Lighting the Hanukkah lights, growing the light each night, is meant to inspire us to cajole creation to bring back the light and the warmth and the possibilities that come with tomorrow.
So much today is an open wound that we must keep uncovered with our protests demanding justice, prayers crying out for healing and people aching for truth based on science and a commitment to the common good.
Some paths forward are made clear by the imminent dangers that threaten our reproductive rights, our access to voting, the health of our planet, our climate, the safety of our streets and neighborhoods filled with too many guns, and the growing hate of antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and transphobia, and the racism against people of color.
Other paths are less clear as we become overwhelmed by the breaking news of each day that adds a new hashtag to the endless list of causes to champion. Our CRC leadership, circles and staff will continue to work together to make sure that we are able to take care of each other even as we work to repair our broken world.
I am grateful that this moon of Kislev will bring Hanukkah, a time to be clear once again about the distinctions between Hellenism and Judaism. A time that our story pushes us to find the balance between what is in the hands of destiny and what is for us to change–what has been written and what we have yet to write.
Hanukkah gives us the opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to the core values of our congregation that have shaped us and promise a better future–our commitments to not leaving anyone behind, to radical hospitality and inclusivity and to providing the spaces we need to renew our souls with joy and generosity and kindness for all.
Hanukkah teaches that all is possible when we do not stand on the sidelines and we jump in and participate in the process, when we do not give up hope, when the growing lights show us the steps we need to take to know we have done our part to move forward with care and compassion.
On the CRC Zodiac Floor, the story of Judith fills the space in the holy day cycle for Hanukkah. Holding the head of the oppressor general, Judith cut off the strength of the mighty Hellenist army and made it possible for the small band of grassroots Maccabees to take back the Temple, to rid us of the idols of greed and power and restore the values that make a better world for all, not just for some.
Judith did her part to grow the light and the hope in her time.
Together we can find a way to grow the light we need today.
Light for healing from illness and from hate.
Light for renewed hope.
Light to make this Hanukkah a time to have the holy hutzpah to light that first candle even when it may seem like there is not enough oil.
Light to use everything we are and everything we have to fill our Sukkat Shalom with the hope that this year will be a better and healthier and more loving year for all.
Thank you for your understanding, your patience and your trust as we work to be the best that we can be.