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Ta Shema: December 10, 2021

From Our Rabbi

It is traditional to sing Maoz Tzur, Rock of Ages, after lighting the Hanukkah. The lyrics that most of us are familiar with are:

Rock of Ages let our song,
Praise thy saving power;
Thou amidst the raging foes,
Wast our sheltering tower.
Furiously they assailed us,
But Thine arm availed us
And Thy word broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.
And Thy word broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.

These lyrics show one aspect of the holiday–the unlikely defeat of the Greek Army by a bunch of shleppers. However, that translation is not a direct interpretation of the Hebrew words. A more direct translation would be this:

O mighty stronghold of my salvation,
to praise You is a delight.
Restore my House of Prayer
and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.
When You will have prepared the slaughter
for the blaspheming foe,
Then I shall complete with a song of hymn
the rededication of the Altar.

These lyrics tell the same story a little differently. This version is set before the battle with the Greeks and is a request for God to intervene so that the Temple can be restored. After God fulfills God’s promise, then we will go about rededicating the Temple and singing God’s praises.

The lesson: God is on both sides of the miracle. God is in miraculous defeat and God is in the courage to ask for help when taking that first step seems impossible.

Like the Maccabees, this past Sunday we took a huge step in rededicating our sacred space. Congregants of all ages came together to label, sort, break down, and throw away things in our synagogue to make room for more places to “do Jewish." A huge thank you to Jon Alper and Harold Eichenholz for leading Sunday’s cleaning effort, to Nikki and Felice Zeldin for setting up our party afterward, and to all of our volunteers that day. A special thank you to Lloyd Zeldin for all of his cleaning and organizing leading up to Sunday so that we could best focus our efforts. It was especially meaningful to gather around the fully lit menorah at the end of the party. I felt the true meaning of Hanukkah–being able to safely practice Judaism to the fullest extent in a building that we have cared for physically.

Hanukkah may be over, but the party isn’t! I hope to see many people gathered inside our social hall this Sunday at 11:30 for our Neighbors in Conversation brunch, featuring more delicious winter holiday foods. Together with our friends from St. Judes we will continue to explore miracles in our own lives and during this season.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Chaya Bender

Mon, October 3 2022 8 Tishrei 5783