As we enter the month of December, our daylight hours are becoming short
and we find nighttime nipping at the heels of the afternoon. Around this
time every year, I think that Hanukkah, with its glowing candles, can’t
come soon enough! And this year, we light the first candle on the evening
of December 1st. Why so early? Hanukkah always falls on the 25th day of
the Jewish month of Kislev, but because Jewish months are determined by
the moon, they are shorter than the months on the secular calendar, and
the holidays move earlier in the season each year. To keep them from changing
seasons altogether, we make an adjustment every few years, adding a whole
extra month in the spring, before Passover. (This year will be one of those
leap years, so expect Passover to be later than usual this spring.)
As we remember the struggle of the Maccabees to preserve the Jewish way of life, and the miracle of the tiny amount of oil that burned for eight days, we come together as a community to celebrate. I am looking forward to seeing all of our Hanukkah menorahs that we will light together on Friday night just before services - and to latkes, the Hebrew school play, and lots of Hanukkah songs on Sunday.
Superimposed on our yearly holiday cycle, is our weekly cycle of Shabbat – another opportunity for this wonderful community to be together. During our “teaching service” in October, we spoke a little about different styles of prayer service along two dimensions: ranging from traditional to modern, from thinking (lots of explanations) to feeling (experiencing). We found that the space we worship in makes a difference – there is a different feel to prayer in the sanctuary upstairs, compared to the downstairs space, and we have begun to use the upstairs space more. We are finding our way, within the tradition, to a style that expresses the CSI community – so please continue to tell me what is working for you, and what isn’t.
As I look forward to the glow of our candles for Hanukkah and Shabbat, I’ll end with this quote from Rabbi Kook, the first chief rabbi in 20th century Israel:
" Everyone must know and understand that within burns a candle and no one's candle is identical with the candle of another, and there is no human being without a candle...One needs to ignite one's candle and make of it a great torch to enlighten the whole world."