Hanukkah is the holiday of rededication. We cleaned up the temple and the country after many years of war. Even with rededication of the community to religion, remember that the war was fought in part to battle assimilation. The Judaism that came after Hanukkah was not quite the same as what was previously practiced. In order to win the war, the Maccabees had to compromise and assimilate. This included fighting on the Sabbath. After the war, people didn’t just stop everything they had picked up under Assyrian rule. They continued to be influenced by Hellenistic writings and culture. So rededication also meant having to accept a new face of reality. Judaism would be different than before. Even if the temple looked the same, the people were irrevocably different.
So too are we, after Super-Storm Sandy. We are fortunate enough that to the best of our knowledge no TRT congregants lost their lives or their homes, but we are forever changed. Some of these changes may help us. Perhaps learning to appreciate electricity more will help us be more responsible with it, or at the very least more grateful. Perhaps knowing how we fared so much better than others helps us to be grateful. But I believe we are also more wary, more aware that the items we spend so much time and money and energy acquiring can be lost, just like that. We are more aware of the fragility of life as we know it, and this knowledge can shake us to the core.
As we celebrate the Festival of Lights, we might remember what sitting in candle-lit rooms for days on end felt like, but it also should remind us that it is not over for all of us. We might have fixed the damage to our homes, caught up on our work and school, or even, put it out of our minds… But there are others who remain in temporary housing, or who continue living with relatives. There are others who are struggling to keep their business open after losing so much work, or after losing the whole thing. There are those who are sick and tired of relying on charity, but have no idea what else to do. This is where rededication comes in. We must rededicate ourselves. We, who are blessed enough to share the lights of Hanukkah inside our warm homes, must rededicate ourselves to helping others find their light in the darkness.
Like in Maccabean times, we rededicate not to become the same as we were before, but to recognize the difference the destruction created in our lives and the lives of our community. We rededicate in order to be better than before. There are so many things you can do. Check out our website trt.org to find the newest information for helping. Be sure to dedicate your sixth night of Hanukkah not to give yourselves or your children gifts, but to buy gifts for those who will have none this year. Spend a few minutes by the light of the hanukiyyah remembering your time in the dark and: find a way to be grateful for what you have; and dedicate something to those who have not.
Rededication is not a onetime event. If we are to learn from this tragic experience we must continually rededicate ourselves to the lessons it taught us. The lessons are not the same for all of us, just as the experience was not the same for all, but I hope the commitment to not leaving our community behind, the commitment to being changed, can be one we all take on so the whole community can benefit.
Happy Hanukkah, may your lights truly be a light to the world!