Aired December 8, 2012 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/E8lvJUkZOQs
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of December 9th, 2012.
Happy Chanukah everybody! What a joy to find ourselves lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel, eating the latkes, and making believe we’re not jealous of the people across the street celebrating Christmas. December, the very fulcrum of winter, is the perfect time for a holiday that brings us all together for food and fun. Actually, January would be better because December is still close to Thanksgiving and you have more football, but I’m not one to bitch.
To be honest, Chanukah is not the most important holiday. Passover, when we got the hell out of Egypt, that was bigger. Shavuot, where God gave us the Torah – that’s a big one, too. Yom Kippur, where we beg HaShem to forget what a bunch of schmucks we are, pretty major. Chanukah merely celebrates a military victory. Jerusalem was under the control of Syrians and Greeks who forbade the practice of Judaism. Matisyahu – not the reggae, the rebel – Matisyahu and his family rebelled, killed a few people, and took to the hills for training. They came back as an army and forced the Greeks out of the Holy Land.
When Jews went to re-claim the great temple, they saw that it had been defiled. Pigs were slaughtered on the altar. False idols were placed in positions of worship. A giant screen was tuned to QVC. The Jews immediately set about purifying the synagogue. And they probably also repainted a little because there was chipping and you could see the primer. Anyhoo, they started to burn some ritual oil in the candelabra. There was only a teeny bit left, so they figured it would burn for a day or two. What a shock when that minuscule drop of oil stayed lit for eight full days. I had an uncle who stayed lit for ten days, but it took him a case of Jack Daniels to do it. Eight days was just long enough to re-consecrate the temple, long enough to make our children say, “Eh, it’s just chocolate money, but we get it for a week!”
What is the modern significance of Chanukah? What do we learn from this Festival of Lights? First of all, we learn that you can do almost anything if you put your mind to it. One Jewish family defied the laws of the land and created a revolution. Instead of bowing before the Greeks – because we all know, Greeks like it when people bend over – they triumphed as the Maccabees. “Mac” because they became the Syrians’ mac daddies; “bees” because they stung the enemy in the tuchas.
We also learn that miracles happen if you let a little faith go a long way. Have you ever bought a lightbulb that was supposed to last a year, and a decade later, the thing’s still working? It happens. In the hands of HaShem, time is a malleable construct. Sometimes, when I give a sermon, people tell me they look at their watch and it’s been twenty minutes – but it feels like seven hours. A miracle!
Most importantly, we learn from the Chanukah holiday that things can look as bleak and horrible as the schmutz on the bottom of a toaster oven. But HaShem gives us the blessing of change. To quote Bob Dylan, “The wheel’s still in spin.” 2,200 years ago, the Temple was trashed and out of Jewish hands, and then, a week later, it’s ready for kosher catering. So when we look at the crisis in the middle east, or the fiscal cliff, or the music of Kid Rock, we have to say, “It’s all right. The world turns, and nothing truly lasts forever. Except an Orthodox seder.”
But that’s a different holiday. This one is Chanukah with candles and dreidels and latkes and Adam Sandler and jelly donuts and, thanks to fracking, enough oil to last eight centuries.
Dreidel dreidel dreidel,
I made you out of plexiglass.
And if you don’t like Chanukah,
Then you can kiss my sexy ass.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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