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Our annual Congregational Meeting will take place in the Social Hall of TOL on Sunday January 25, 2015. Documents will be available for review starting at 2:00 PM. The meeting will begin at 2:30 PM.

Rabbi Joe's Weekly Message

Week of December 14

Rabbi Joseph Hample

The Jewish Equivalent

Years ago, a Catholic friend amused himself by asking me the Jewish equivalent of things. The Jewish equivalent of church is synagogue. The Jewish equivalent of first communion is bar mitzvah. The Jewish equivalent of ham is brisket.

We play this game all the time and hardly notice it. Little by little, we have turned Chanukkah into the Jewish equivalent of Christmas. If you enjoy serving a giant Chanukkah dinner, festooning the house with blue-and-white doodads, lavishing fancy presents on your kids, please do so. But I hope you'll take a moment to reflect on what Chanukkah meant to our ancestors.

In Jewish law, Chanukkah doesn't require feasting, decorating, or gift giving. It requires lighting eight lamps or candles in honor of a miracle. The haftarah (Prophetic reading) for Chanukkah explains the miracle in this way: "The angel woke me, as a person is woken from sleep, and I saw a gold menorah. I said, What does it mean? And the angel said, This is the word of the Eternal: not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit" (Zechariah 4:1-6).

We all know what it is to be powerless. We begin life as infants, easily outmuscled and outwitted by others. We end life as invalids, at the mercy of family or doctors or nurses. Jews, as an often unpopular minority, have extra experience with powerlessness. But at the darkest season of the year, at the darkest times in history, we have always managed to kindle the flame of Divine truth, justice, and love. That's a jaw-dropping wonder. That's as impressive as anyone else's miracle, if not more so.

What's the Jewish equivalent of Santa Claus? If you said Danny Dreidel or Lenny Latke, Uncle Irving or Judah Maccabee, well, that's better than "Poor us, we don't have a Santa Claus." But I've got a more persuasive answer. Next time you hear the question, look 'em in the eye and announce: The Jewish equivalent of Santa Claus is God.

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