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12/02/2021 03:50:00 PM

Dec2

Rabbi Ari Lucas


As some of you might know, Talya and I bought a new home about a year ago - we wanted to be closer to the shul, and closer to the park. When we moved in, we felt that this could be our home for a long time to come. We moved in our stuff, unpacked, hung pictures on the walls, and…of course, put up a mezuzah. We dedicated our home. This was the end of one part of our journey of finding our home, but it was only the beginning of a whole lot more work to be done.

We needed to buy new furniture, build a patio (big enough to fit the sukkah!), plant in the yard - all the stuff that transforms a place from being a house into a home. Now, a full year later, we’re getting there.

And all the meanwhile, our neighbors have been out of their home. A tree fell on their roof in tropical storm Isias and they’ve been displaced for the past year plus as the house has been repaired. So as we’ve been settling into our home, we’ve been mindful that they have been out of theirs.

Transforming a house into a home is a lifelong process. Even once you think everything’s just right, that’s when someone will say, “time to redo the blinds!”

Cantor Caplan pointed out to me that when we tell the story of Hanukkah everything seems so neat and clean. The Maccabees won the war, they came to the temple, lit the menorah, and shalom al yisrael - everything was hunky dory all over again. The reality was probably more complicated than that - there were probably still Hellenized Jews who weren’t ready to return to the Temple, there was more oil to be pressed, more cleaning up to be done. But they didn’t wait until everything was perfect to rededicate the Temple, they stopped at a significant moment to say a blessing and bring light back into a space that had been dark for some time.

And that’s what we’re doing here tonight. I admit that when we planned this event, Omicron was not a word in our vocabulary (or should I say a letter in our alphabet). We thought that between vaccines and promising treatments COVID would be beginning to fade into our rear view mirror. Not so. But we think about how far we’ve come and pause to light a candle together.

Right after Purim 5780 we went dark.
We cancelled our annual Purim carnival.
We closed the building.
Services were halted for the first time in anyone’s memory of the synagogue.
But we adapted.
We held services on Zoom and outdoors under a canopy.
We blew shofar (with a mask) around town.
We had b’nei mitzvah, baby namings, brises, weddings, in people’s backyards.
And yes, we’ve had our fair share of graveside and Zoom funerals and shivas too.
But we’ve found ways to stay connected.

The message of Hanukkah is simple - despite many attempts in our history of people trying to erase us, snuff us out, we’re still here. Our light shines brightly. In this time of growing anti-semitism, in this season of growing concerns over the Coronavirus, we pause together to rededicate our communal home and to bring life and light into this space. Some of us in person, some of us on Zoom, each of us sacred vessels of God’s light, all of us together.

It may yet take more time for us to “get back to normal” - longer than any of us would have liked. But it’s not dark anymore. We are still here. We take this opportunity to rededicate ourselves to being the best we can be - resilient, holy, shining brightly. And that is worth a blessing.

May 18,2024 /  10 Iyyar 5784