The season of light and festive celebration is upon us! This year, more than ever, we need the inspiration and message of the holidays to reassure us that all will be well with us and with the world. For Jews, we are lighting our Chanukah menorahs at the beginning of December. Christians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus toward the end of the month. And Kwaanza will be observed also at the end of December with lights. Light is a symbol of the Divine within each of us and a reminder of God's presence in the world and in our lives. Particularly at this time of the year, we are also reminded of our common humanity and that what unites us is greater than our differences. We are blessed to live a country that endorses religious liberty and allows each of us to worship in our own way, or not at all, without any interference from government. This freedom is quite unique to America and is not found to the same extent in any other country in the world!
My ancestors, the Jewish people of the second century BCE(before Jesus), fought to keep Judaism of their day alive against overwhelming odds and the great power of the Assyrian Greek Empire. The Assyrian-Greeks turned our Holy Temple in Jerusalem into a pagan shrine and banned the observance of Jewish rites and rituals. A single family, descendants of Hasmon the Priest, rallied the people and successfully fought to recapture and rededicate the Holy Temple. Had they failed, not only would Judaism have ceased to exist, but perhaps, Christianity might not have come into being after Jesus, born a Jew - Joshua of Nazareth.
And so, we all have much to celebrate and much for which to be thankful. Amid the festivities of lights, presents, family and food, let us remember the spiritual message of the season. In our darkest moments, the light of God shines upon us all, lifting us from despair and giving us hope.
Rabbi Art Vernon,
Congregation Shaaray Shalom