16/17 December 2022, 23 Kislev 5783

Chanukah always gives me pause.

My children love that I start buying chocolate coins in November. And I have heard comments made that it is a refreshing festival as there is little prayer service throughout. Chanukah has benefited from (or lost out to, depending on how you see things) Christmas. It has grown in stature, our festival of light. Eight days to give generous gifts, copious opportunities for latkes and doughnuts and anything else made with oil to honour that slightly dubious miracle that we celebrate.

But Chanukah means dedication and tells the more nuanced story of a rare moment of military victory by a small minority over an established nation. It tells the story of a beleaguered group of pious and focused Jews who were exceedingly bothered by the Hellenised ways of their fellow Jewish folk. And the rededication of the second Temple was doubtless a victory, a return. The eight days of Chanukah reflect the eight days of Sukkot the previous festival uncelebrated because the Temple was out of bounds for everyone who wanted to worship. (Sukkot was one of those three foot festivals that required pilgrimages to the Temple). How can one not celebrate this? It’s fun and it’s tribal to a point. Early stamps in the State of Israel depict the Maccabi heroes. Yet I often wonder as a religious and integrated Jew who benefits from my host culture and being part of the multi cultural Britain I love, where would I have stood in 167 BCE Palestine?

I love asking that question.

And I love the opportunity to dedicate and rededicate myself to the Jewish life I choose and must recommit to every day, let alone every year. But this is the annual occasion that encourages us.

Here at FPS we are using Chanukah 5783/2022 to dedicate ourselves to each other, our synagogue and our building and will be looking back and forwards as we do so. Sunday 5pm after the World Cup Final. (I know it’s unfortunate timing but we will play it to our advantage.) Please join us because our community; our home is all about you who make it. Sign up here. As well as music, food and joy, there will be gifts and activities for children of all ages.

“Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them”. (Exodus 25:8, So said God to Moses about the first sanctuary/mishkan.)

Never a truer word was spoken.

Chag Chanukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.