December is here already, the end of our secular year. 2019 is upon us. Yes, the new secular year is ready to explode with the surprises that only the unknown future can present to us. Therefore, since 2019 is a mystery, I will refrain from making a prediction and limit my words to wish everyone a good 2019, with more peace and tranquility for humanity. Is that possible? We’ll see …
Of course I wouldn’t be doing the “Rabbi thing” if I refrain from mentioning that Hanukkah is upon us! It’s a time to celebrate and reaffirm my Jewishness, my individuality. Knowing who we are is essential in the world we live in.
We live in a society of confusion and individuality. We think that things will never happen to “me,” but can happen to someone else. We think that anti-Semitism happens in Europe not in the United States, and if it were to happen in the U.S., not in New York. Well, that’s what the Jews in Germany thought before World War II. In Berlin? Never! But it happened in Pittsburgh. I cannot be indifferent to my Judaism. The Jewish community needs to reaffirm the world who we are and that we are not afraid of being Jewish.
Hanukkah is when we tell our children about being respectful of people who do not believe like us, but nevertheless are just as right in their beliefs as we are. Neither Hanukkah nor Christmas nor Kwanza are about presents or food only. They are about meaning in life, about discovering who we are and reaffirming our identity to us and to the future generations.
During Hanukkah, we light the Hanukkah menorah to remind us of the miracle that occurred. Jewish people were saved and victorious against all odds. This happened only because there were enough Jews who wanted to fight for their identity not to get lost. That’s exactly what we need today in our lives. To reaffirm who we are and what our beliefs are.
Enough of living life on automatic pilot. It’s time to become aware of who we are. Hanukkahh is that time, we tell the world and ourselves about our identity. It’s a time to find our spirituality, humanity and individuality.
Hanukkah is a time when we respect and accept everyone’s beliefs and the absolute right to worship as one wishes. In many ways, Hanukkah is a celebration of what The Unites States is all about: freedom to be.
I wish for everyone a Hanukkah of discovery, a time to reaffirm our Jewishness and a time to show respect, acceptance and tolerance for everyone.
Have a fantastic Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanza.
Rabbi Goren is the spiritual leader of Temple Avodah in Oceanside.