11/12 December 2020, 25/26 Kislev 5781

Chanukah begins on today (Thursday 10 December), which is 25 Kislev.

We recall the very unexpected defeat of the Seleucid Greeks by the Hellenist Jews. A rededication (Chanukah means dedication) of the temple long unavailable to the Jews of that period and a purification of Judaism practiced at that time.

So a victory for the Chasadim, purist Jews of that time, 164 BCE.

A great story. Although surely one to discuss and interpret for contemporary times. But in terms of the message of religious freedom it’s important Today is another important anniversary, that of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights agreed 10 December 1948 after the devastating atrocities of the Holocaust.

There was a hope that the tyranny experienced there would never be repeated, but of course it was. And the UDHR has been a map and a reminder of what humans (should) strive for.

In a year where our shared experience with other people, no matter who or where, has been unprecedented, the link between Chanukah and this anniversary is important.

The work establishing Human Rights continues and is as needed as ever. Just think of this year. Hate crime leading to Genocide is the focus of the Human Rights organisation Rene Cassin. And here we are arriving at Chanukah 2020 with respect and safety for all very much on our minds; amongst others our eyes are on and hearts leaning towards the Uyghur Muslim Community in China being brutalised still. Mosques desecrated and their religion and culture assaulted daily. Let’s pick this thread of awareness from our celebration, amongst the joy and the moments of light, that religious freedom is still compromised for many.

This whole year due to Covid regulations we have had to restrict all our festival celebrations. From Seder to Rosh Hashanah to now. As we ‘dedicate’ ourselves for this Chanukah let’s hold that balance; creative celebrations, generosity for those celebrating Christmas this year, allowed a few days of togetherness whilst holding that consciousness for the brutality of those still suffering under brutal regimes.

I look forward to seeing you at our Chanukiah lightings on each day of Chanukah, all in purple below. Whether you know the hosts or not, do join any and every night you fancy! Plus I’ll see you at our Big Chanukah Event on Sunday!

Shabbat Shalom to all and a particular Mazal Tov to the Angels on Lucy’s Bat Mitzvah inside our synagogue this Shabbat. There are spaces still to book for Friday or Saturday.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Rebecca