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Chanukah 5782 ~ Decembers 3, 2021

Lisa and I love to travel to Rockefeller Center to see people skating on the outdoor rink with the Christmas tree in the background. We enjoy walking down Fifth Avenue and seeing the store displays for the holiday season. We enjoy watching on television the star-studded musical program leading up to the lighting. There is something special about this time of year.

On Wednesday evening, we felt somewhat disappointed by the producers of the program. We had just lit the fourth candle for Chanukah when we sat down to watch the program. And, as the evening progressed, since it was actually Chanukah, we had hoped that the hosts might offer a Happy Chanukah to those watching on TV or in attendance. Perhaps, if nothing else a lighting of a chanukiyah. Perhaps we were asking for too much. Then again, in our new world, where everyone is expecting mutual acceptance and equality, imagine the statement that would have been made by the producers to include a lighting of a chanukiyah, or a Chanukah song.  Happy holidays simply didn’t make it for us, in this new America, especially on Chanukah itself.

And then it happened, Mickey Guyton, a brand-new American Country music star, who was awarded the new country music sensation of the year by her peers, wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukah. As an African-American she made a statement. One that made us smile. At the same time, our disappointment remained for the producers, who clearly had no intention of any mention whatsoever of Chanukah in the program, even though NYC has one of the largest Jewish populations outside of Israel. I also noticed that the expression on the artist’s face had changed, as though she had been admonished either by the producer or the crowd for adding Chanukah to her wishes.

For such a minor Jewish holiday, one that is not found in the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, it seems as though we shouldn’t make such big deal. Afterall, it was only one hundred and fifty years ago that Chanukah became what it is today.  A rabbi from Cincinnati recognized that the emotions of Jews in America were somewhat deflated by the fact that our holiday of lights was so minor in comparison to everyone else. And as the story goes, he planned a major Chanukah celebration for his community.

Then again, I know that we are all joining together both on Zoom and in person to watch the candle lightings that are taking place each night in our community. We are all enjoying listening to the blessings of the candles, hearing the songs, and seeing the candles glowing.   I have noticed that all of our local TV stations are wishing us a Happy Chanukah as they come on air for the local newscast. Best Buy’s website let me know that the item that I was looking at online was available in time for Chanukah.  But NBC Universal and the folks at Rockefeller Center had no intention of doing the same.

After our recent chanukiah lighting at Ocean Beach, a question arose. A congregant who loves to keep me on my toes, noticed correctly, that the candles on the chanukiah, were on the opposite side of what he was accustomed to or was taught – they started on the left, rather than the right.  When he Googled the lighting of the menorah, he found out that he was right…or shall I say correct. The candles are placed on the right-hand side of the chanukiah, with the newest candle for the day being lit first. And as he always does, he emailed me and asked me “why?” We had a wonderful discussion, where I explained to him that the candles were reversed for the benefit of those of Zoom, who would have seen them as being reversed. So, he and I both were wondering whether those watching the candle lighting on Zoom saw them right to left or left to right. And I promised that for next Chanukah, I would light the menorah for the benefit for those in attendance.

This coming Shabbat, Marcia Reinhard will lead us in Chanukah songs, as part of our Shabbat eve Kabbalat Shabbat service. In the morning, when we gather again together for a hybrid service at Temple Emanu-El, I will share with you the stories that have been submitted to me from some of you of your memories of Chanukahs past.  I hope you will join us to celebrate our holiday.

Shabbat shalom and Happy Chanukah.

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782