Cantor’s Column – December 2020

Rededicate to Community

Cantor Ilan Davidson

As Hanukkah begins, it is  a  time for rededication and reflection. As our  ancestors  celebrated  the  first Hanukkah, they understood they needed to rededicate themselves to their service to the Temple, but perhaps more importantly, they realized a need to rededicate themselves to community. In those days, we had just survived a civil unrest that fractured our community. Some wanting to be more religious, while others wanting to adopt the ways of the secular world in which they lived. In fact, the true war of Hanukkah was between zealous dedication to Judaism and assimilation into an immoral, secular society.

It is not unlike the world we live in today. We have survived a fracturing election, are in the middle of a pandemic that has secluded us from each other, and we are in real need of tikkun, or repair. Every day, we watch on the news as more and more people are infected by this pandemic, either literally or figuratively. We are asked to look out for each other and be accountable, not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors. Others argue that nobody should be dictating how we live our lives and whether our businesses should be open. Accountability seems a virtue of the past at times, while judgment of choices and actions has become the theme of the present. At the same time, our politicians are seen as zealous about knowing how we can battle this pandemic, while at times seeming hypocritical in their own actions. Likewise, the zealous Maccabees of our story, the ones we celebrate, but would probably never be a part of, were probably just as guilty of their own hypocrisy, putting fences around the very laws they wanted to uphold, while judging others based on their lack of interest in those same laws.

What lies in the middle is a fundamentally simple, yet complicated answer…integration. When we can hold onto the values at the very root of our Torah, while integrating into our society, we become successful contributors who have not had to sell their souls to get there. Indeed, the very foundation of our Reform movement is a foundation of informed choice and integration, rather than blind faith and following or complete denial of our roots. For these reasons, Hanukkah is constantly relevant in modern days.

Hanukkah reminds us to rededicate ourselves to OUR temple and OUR community. It reminds us to resolve to do more for ourselves, our families, our community, our nation, and our world, and not to judge others for their choices. We have an opportunity to start at home, learning more about our Judaism and celebrating more with our Temple Beth El community, while branching out with our values and beliefs to help others and recommit to a healthier society. As we prepare to celebrate Hanukkah in a new way, may we all find more time in our lives to reach out to family, community, and self, while always remembering to allow God and Judaism a vote in our life decisions, a place at our table, a screen on our Zoom calls, and a committed section on our calendars.