During this season of holidays, parties, family gatherings and shopping, it's often easy to overlook the origins of the very things we're celebrating. In the Jewish community, it's the Festival of Lights, or Chanukah (however you want to spell it). We're celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the evil Roman army and Antiochus. We're also celebrating the fact that some oil that was only supposed to last one day ended up burning for eight days - long enough for the Jews to keep the eternal flame in the sanctuary lit until replacement oil could be secured.
There is a great deal of religious symbolism found in this story, and we commemorate it in different ways. There are the themes of light, of the triumph of the small over the mighty, of the perseverance of faith and of the miracle of scarcity somehow being overcome through faith. We eat potato latkes and eat soufganiyot - foods that contain lots of oil. We light the chanukiyah and say the prayers. We spin the dreidl containing the letters nun, gimel, hay, and shin which remind us that "nes gadol haya sham" a great miracle happened there.
It makes me wonder, though... why is it that all of the miracles that we talk about happened in ancient history? Did God disappear for some reason? Or is it more a question of our perspective, of the eyes through which we see the world? Is it possible that miracles stopped happening because we stopped looking for them, or recognizing them when they occur? Could it be that miracles happen all the time, and that we're too busy on our Blackberrys and iPods to notice them?
I was reading a poem this morning by the Israeli poet, Zelda, where she talks about how nature provides signs of the existence of something larger than ourselves:
A light, sudden bird
prepared my soul for the song of the grasses.
There was something startling
in the blue of the sky.
I was amazed that the treetops
with no shadow of fear.
I wanted to flee from the white sky
but the small garden showed me signs
that His mercy had not ceased.
Perhaps by spending some time in nature, or in silence, we can learn something about our own true nature. And we will see that life is full of innumerable miracles in our own time, perhaps hidden just below the surface of "ordinary" reality.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you have something to add to the discussion, I invite you to visit my blog page and let me know what you think.
I'm looking forward to spending this upcoming weekend in CT. I will be doing services on Friday evening and Saturday morning and concerts on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Please check the show listings below for more details.
Speaking of modern miracles, my college a cappella group, The Tufts Beelzebubs, will be appearing tonight and (hopefully) tomorrow night and Monday on the NBC show, "The Sing-Off." Check your local listings. If you enjoy a cappella music, or the show, "Glee," you will definitely get a kick of this show. And remember to vote for the Bubs if they make the finals. =-)
*Please note that all "Shows" listed at Temple Solel are actually Shabbat Services, unless otherwise notated.
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"Todd has the voice of an angel. His heart is pure, and he has a unique spirit that wanders into the soul and inspires all who are privileged to hear him." — Craig Taubman
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