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Some are calling this rare occurrence “Thanksgivukkah,” and there has been a slew of recipes, decorations and party suggestions in anticipation. We probably shouldn’t spend too much creative energy on joint celebration because it won’t happen again for 80 thousand years!
Chanukah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar. Yet, it has assumed a major role in the lives of many Jews.
One reason is that it stresses how a few, highly motivated patriots were able to overcome the superior forces of a tyrant. Chanukah teaches us that spirit can triumph over force; that deeply felt principles can overcome mighty armies. In the words of the Prophet Zechariah which we read during Chanukah, "Not by armies and not by might but by My spirit." Jews have always maintained this belief; had they done otherwise, we would have disappeared long ago.
Second, Chanukah reinforces the notion of pluralism: that each faith and creed has the sacred right to be different, to uphold its own ideals and principles, to serve God in its own unique way. Hellenism sought to homogenize all faiths and cultures; the Maccabees succeeded in battling for the right to uphold Judaism in a world of paganism and to swim against the popular tide.
Finally, Chanukah emphasizes the lesson that out of darkness can come light. We have never surrendered to the dark night of hopelessness and despair whether in our national history or in our personal lives. To the contrary: we have always been strengthened by men and women who were ready to kindle the lamps of faith and hope.
The greatest ritual connected to Chanukah is lighting the menorah or hanukiyah, each night for eight successive nights as dusk falls. Many people also eat potato pancakes, latkes, fried in oil, while others prefer doughnuts. These foods also recall the miracle of the olive oil that lasted eight days. It is also an old Chanukah custom to play dreidel.
And then there are gifts. While this is a modern addition to the holiday, let’s face it, the commercialization of Chanukah has succeeded in making the holiday a favorite, especially amongst children. One way we can help to make this less about receiving, is by taking on great Chanukah gift giving. Try adopting a great organization like Operation Gratitude, www.operationgratitude.com, started here in the LA area for our US military, or help make the holidays specials for soldiers in the IDF with www.apackagefromhome.org.
However you choose celebrate, may you, and your entire family be illuminated with the warmth of the holidays. We invite you to join us in Temple Beth Ami’s annual Chanukah events:
Monday, Nov. 18, 6 PM: Storytime at the Valencia Library
Tuesday, Nov. 19, 6 PM: Storytime at the Old Town Newhall Library
Thursday, Nov. 21, 6 PM: Storytime at the Canyon Country Library
Friday, Nov. 29, 7 PM: Don’t miss TBA’s famous Chanukah Party and Shabbat Celebration at Temple Beth Ami (featuring PASHA/Volunteer Family of the Year Award)
Saturday, Nov. 30, 7:00 PM: Join us as we light the Stevenson Ranch Community menorah (Stevenson Ranch Parkway and Holmes Place)
Sunday, Dec. 1, 5 PM: Santa Clarita’s Jewish Community Chanukah Party at Westfield’s Valencia Town Center
Monday, Dec. 2, 12 PM: Chanukah Storytime for Toddlers at Barnes & Noble, Valencia
Monday, Dec. 2, 7 PM: Vodka/Latke at the Blazer’s
Tuesday, Dec. 3, 7 PM: Chanukah Party and Storytime at Barnes & Noble, Valencia. Fun for all ages!