A Message on Ritual, Courtesy of the Chanukah Menorah
We find ourselves right in the midst of Chanukah. We’ve had a once-in-the-history-of-civilization event when we celebrated Thanksgivingkeh or Thanksalatka, which was the convergence of Thanksgiving Thursday with the first day of Chanukah. It is a once-in-the-history-of-civilization event because the last time Chanukah was this early was 1861, before Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. The next time it might happen will be 76,000 or so years from now in the 800th century! That is because the Jewish calendar is drifting some 4 days ahead every millenium or so (not bad for an ancient solilunar calendar!). In the next few centuries, we will encounter two years where the first night of Chanukah will be a Thursday evening–after Thanksgiving but never will again to precede Thanksgiving. Not until the time that the calendar makes a full loop around the general calendar will this phenomenon occur again. The computer model shows this to be somewhere in 776th century, but there is zero chance the Jewish calendar will be allowed to continue as is, since the Torah instructs that Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkoth are autumn holidays (in the Northern Hemisphere) and Pesach is a spring festival. Ergo, never was and never will be again!
What can we learn from this? Perhaps that a perfect symmetry between the general things around us in our American clime, and those things in our Jewish identity, are rare, and therefore, if we want to remain Jewish, we must work at it and be deliberate in our ceremonies, customs, family life and ritual. These are the elements that keep us distinctively Jewish, even more so that than the wonderful work we do communally and ethically. That is what is easily understood from a recent Pew Study on Jewish identity. Rabbi David Wolpe, of Los Angeles, puts it succinctly in a Washington Post article. “The ethical good works we do are wonderfully important... that which is continually diluted eventually will disappear.” Being an ethical person is central to Judaism but not uniquely Jewish. Fighting for social justice, while central to Judaism, is not uniquely Jewish. Wearing tefilin, praying in Hebrew, Torah study, kashrut, Jewish religious community–these things are activities that keep the core of tradition alive. As Jews leave the latter and profess only the former, adherence weakens.
As we are in the "Holiday Season," I would like to take this opportunity to extend the following blessing to all. In the N'illah service that culminates the lengthy and moving day of Yom Kippur, we change the wording of a particular part of the liturgy. In the services leading up to the N'ilah service, we recite Oochtov l'chayim – O inscribe all of the children of thy covenant for a happy life. In the N'ilah service, this changes to V'chatom l'chyim tovim – O seal all the children of thy covenant for a happy life! It is my hope and prayer that we have all been sealed for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Your Chesed Committee
I decided to focus on this wonderful committee, of which we are all so proud, in this month's article. We at the ENJC are rather unique in that we make every effort to really care for each and every member of our congregation. It has been my absolute pleasure and joy to be so actively involved in this ongoing and vibrant activity for in excess of twelve years. I have had the loving and dedicated participation of so many congregants who have so generously given of their time and efforts in this regard. The word “chesed” can be translated in so many forms– acts of kindness and piety, grace, favor, righteousness, and so many more. Our committee takes loving care of our congregants in time of need and difficulty. Over the years, so many of our congregants have participated, and it would be almost impossible for me to provide a schedule, for fear of definitely omitting various individuals. However, I would like to recognize the following congregants who have worked so diligently with me in the coordinating and delivery of Shabbat meals on Friday afternoons. Fran & Gershon Rappaport, who have moved to Florida, Renee Rubin-Ross, and currently Terri Glatzer. Within the next few weeks, relatively new members to our congregation, Lewis & Rochelle Masters, will be assuming this important role. Todah to all of these totally dedicated people!
We are two months into the Jewish New Year and have two months until the secular New Year. It doesn’t matter the time of year, at ENJC we are ALWAYS busy. Currently we have a few very exciting projects in the works, which I would like to tell you about.
The Community Relations committee has put together a great evening of entertainment for Saturday, November 16th- A Night of Acoustic Music & Jazz. Rabbi has generously sponsored the folk sounds of Scheherazade, and The Northport Jazz Band, which includes several ENJC members, has graciously offered to delight us with jazz that we can listen and dance to! The evening is FREE so get a babysitter, bring your own bottle and enjoy a night out with friends at ENJC!
Our Family Hanukkah Celebration is planned for Sunday, December 1st in the late afternoon. Alex Fingerman and her committee are planning a blowout DJ party for children and adults of all ages. Bring your friends and family to ENJC to celebrate this joyous holiday. If you are interested in getting involved in planning this fun family event, please contact me.
Jeff Glatzer and the Fundraising committee have a very special fundraiser/beautification project in the works. Many people have commented that it would be lovely to have a place outside the synagogue to sit while waiting for Religious School to let out, or a place to read while your child has his or her Bar/Bat Mitzvah lesson. Brick pavers and benches for dedication will help create this patio setting. This is yet another opportunity to show your support for ENJC and for ENJC to provide you with all “the comforts of home.”