We Must Do Something, Even if We Can’t Do Everything

testimonygunsAs the legislative session begins here in Washington, I had the first opportunity to offer testimony on pending legislation.

As part of my commitment to social justice, I find the opportunity to use the clergy voice to bear on legislation to be very important. Oftentimes to affect social change we need to work through our systems of governance and legislation, and to bring a moral and faith-based voice to bear on issues of common concern is part of pursuing tikkun olam. In doing this work, I generally work in coordination with two organizations, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, the umbrella Jewish organization that develops a policy agenda does lobby, and the Faith Action Network, a statewide interfaith organization dedicated to issues of social justice.

The issue last Thursday was guns. And while I wasn’t originally scheduled to offer testimony, since the scheduled rabbi had a funeral to officiate, and I dutifully stepped in.

The bill was to establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders. These are court orders that will allow law enforcement to confiscate the guns of or prevent the purchase of guns by those deemed at high risk. If someone, for example, suffers from mental illness and is at risk of harming themselves or others, or has perpetrated domestic violence, or who has made obvious threats, then family members or law enforcement can petition the court to issue an extreme risk protection order. It is meant to get guns out of the hands of those most liable to do harm to themselves or others.

There were several gun related bills up for discussion that day in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Many people in support of the various gun safety measures shared personal stories of pain and loss related to gun violence. It was truly heartbreaking to hear, and served as a reminder that while we honor constitutional rights, we also note that rights must be tempered with responsibilities.

On the other side, the arguments against gun safety measures that I heard that day fell into a few categories: (1) there are other things that kill people and are liable to cause harm, and so why single out guns? (2) We don’t need new laws because there are enough protections on the books already. Or (3) there are other factors that contribute to gun violence, so we should address the root causes and not blame guns.

In other words, these bills being heard at the Legislature are not going to stop all gun related violence, so we shouldn’t even bother to implement them.

It is true, we can not be sure what will work and what will not work. We can not be sure how many gun deaths will be averted if we institute new measures. But that does not mean we shouldn’t try.

I think about this as last week’s hearing fell the week of the Torah portion Beshallach. This is the portion in which we read the story of the parting of the Red Sea, how the Israelites were finally free from Egypt, only to find their path blocked by the sea. With the Egyptian army pursuing them, Moses lifted up his staff and a miracle occurred, the sea parted allowing the Israelites to pass in safety.

The Midrash (ancient Torah commentary) adds more detail to the Torah text, and tells the story of Nachshon. As the midrash goes, when the Israelites saw the Egyptians approach and their path blocked, they cried out to Moses. Moses himself was unsure about what to do; there was arguing and discord. An Israelite leader named Nachshon, meanwhile, jumped right into the sea, and it was with that action that Moses was able to part the waters to let the Israelites pass.

It was Nachshon’s direct action and willingness to take a leap into an unknown future, the commentary tells us, that allowed for the seas to part to bring about liberation.

Nachshon’s example still speaks strongly to us today. Careful deliberation and weighing of options is important. But sometimes we just need to act, unsure about what the outcomes may be. The only surety is that doing nothing is not an option. In Nachshon’s case, doing nothing meant certain death, so he needed to take the first step forward.

As we continue to face the devastating issue of gun violence in our country, there are many ideas as to what measures we can take to reduce harm, and we can debate them all. But we also need to take action to do something. Doing nothing is not an option. It too, can mean certain death.

Here is my testimony:

Chair and members of the committee, my name is Rabbi Seth Goldstein and I serve the Jewish community here in Olympia, and I am here as a citizen and as a member of the clergy, representing the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, the Faith Action Network and other allied faith communities in support of HB 2461

I am here in support because the dictates of my faith and my conscience tell me that we must do what we can to try to curb the plague of gun violence in our country. As each day the number of deaths and injuries attributed to gun violence rise, the more this issue has become not only one of policy or rights, but of our failure to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Our rights as citizens have never been absolute. They must be balanced by individual responsibility and the collective obligation to protect each other from harm. And when there is a situation of proven risk, and we do not do what we can to mitigate that risk, then we have acted irresponsibly.

We all recognize that there are a host of factors that contribute to gun violence, and that there are other means of causing harm. But to not do something because we can’t do everything is, frankly, immoral. Extreme risk protection orders represent one important step, to limit access in order to limit injury. I urge your support.

And here is video

 

If a Tree Talks in the Forest, Does it Make a Sound? (On Tu Bishvat)

Today is Tu Bishvat, the new year of the trees.

Originally an ancient holiday used to determine the age of trees and the fitness of fruit for Temple offerings, the day in contemporary times has become an opportunity to reflect on Jewish views of nature. Adopting a mystical tradition, we hold a Seder (as on Passover) and eat fruits and nuts and share stories and songs about trees and other aspects of nature.

In preparing for Tu Bishvat this year, I came across this midrash (Torah commentary):

In Genesis 2:5 we read, “No shrub of the field was yet on the earth and no herb of the filed had yet sprung up because God had not caused it to rain and there was no person to till the earth.” The word for shrub is siach, which means that the trees conversed (m’sichin) with one another. (Genesis Rabbah 13:1)

The rabbis of the midrash are engaging in a bit of word play. In the verse from Genesis (from the story of Creation), the word used for “shrub” in Hebrew is siach. The word siach can also have the meaning of “conversation.” Because of the two meanings embedded in the one word, the rabbis imagine that the trees therefore are conversing with each other.

This idea of a conversation among trees is fascinating, and I thought it was a beautiful metaphor. And then I came across this video:

The idea of trees talking to one another is not just metaphor, but science. Trees communicate; the trees of a forest are not solitary, but rather deeply intertwined and connected.

This is a good reminder this Tu Bishvat. Oftentimes on Tu Bishvat we focus on our relationship with trees and nature: How trees meet our needs for resources, oxygen, food, etc. and how therefore we must meet their needs as well. But we would do well to focus on how the trees have a relationship with each other, how life on this planet is deeply interconnected and complex. And the most humbling aspect of that notion is that the extent of that complexity is probably unknowable.

Happy Tu Bishvat!

If I Forget Thee, O Ken Griffey, Jr….

Like many immigrants, I retain aspects of my life in the old world while at the same time adapting to those in the new. That is the same for me having immigrated to the new world of the Pacific Northwest from the old world of New York. That has taken adjustment over the years, and nothing more slowly than my acculturation in baseball.

As you may know, I am by birth a fan of the New York Yankees, but have, after many years, come to see the Seattle Mariners as my own as well.

So when it was announced that Ken Griffey, Jr. was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the largest percentage of votes ever, and will be the first player to be depicted in the Hall with a Mariners uniform, I celebrated not only as a fan of baseball but as a fan of the Mariners as well.

Ken Griffey Jr.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Griffey was indeed a stellar player and his election to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility was well deserved. He was elected with 99.3% of the ballot (437 out of 440 votes). And while on the one hand that is a great achievement, on the other hand it begs the question, why was his election not unanimous? Or in other words, why did three people not vote for Ken Griffey, Jr.?

[Hall of Famers are voted on by baseball sportswriters. Each year they fill out a ballot with eligible former players (players need to have played for a certain amount of time and been retired for 5 years). A player who receives 75% of the vote is elected, and candidates stay on the ballot for 10 years.]

The question of who didn’t vote for Griffey may not be answered right away, or the answer may never be known. It is important to note that none of the greats were elected on the first ballot, so perhaps one of the sportswriters compared Griffey to those past greats and felt that since they weren’t voted in unanimously, then Griffey shouldn’t be voted in unanimously. Or perhaps one of the sportswriters felt that no one, no matter what their statistics, should be elected in their first year of eligibility.

Or maybe someone thought that with a unanimous vote for Griffey a distinct possibility, they would not vote for him because of a belief that nobody should be elected anonymously.

It reminds me of an esoteric tradition within Judaism called  zecher l’churban. Literally it translates to “a remembrance of the destruction,” referring to the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, first in 586 BCE then again in 70 CE. The destruction of the Temple is seen as one of the great calamities of Judaism, because it was the central institution of the Jewish people, the place where major worship happened, and the location where it was believed the people were spiritually closest to God. Following the destruction, the Temple took on a central place in the religious imagination of the Jewish people; its destruction invoked as a metaphor for the world’s imperfection and its restoration invoked as a metaphor for redemption. Indeed, we face east for certain prayers because we face this holy spot.

The practice of zecher l’churban is drawn from the Talmud, the body of Jewish literature developed not long after the Temple’s destruction. In seeing that communities were mourning excessively for the Temple’s destruction, the rabbis created a new rule:

The Sages have ordained: a person may stucco a house, but should leave a little bare. How much? Rabbi Joseph says, a cubit square. A person can prepare a full-course banquet, but should leave out an item or two. A person can put on ornaments, but should leave off an item or two. For it says, in Psalm 137, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.” [Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 60b]

The rabbis say yes it is OK to mourn for the loss of the Temple, but do it in a reasonable symbolic way. So when you paint your house, or prepare a lavish meal, or dress up fancy, leave a little undone as a reminder of the destruction.

Or in other words, as I like to understand it, we should always have with us a reminder of imperfection. For we, and the world, are imperfect. And this reminder of imperfection should instill in us a sense of humility and the possibility of redemption.

Which brings us back to Griffey. We know that nobody is perfect, we all fail at some time or another, even those who rise to the top of their field like Griffey did. And so no matter how great one is, no matter how accomplished one is, no matter how advanced one is, maybe no one is worthy of a unanimous vote. Those three votes (or non-votes) that kept Griffey from attaining 100% is a zecher l’churban, an important reminder of human imperfection.

Mazel tov to Ken Griffey, Jr. May your 437 votes remind us of the potential for greatness. And may those three votes remind us of our need for humility.

A Prayer for Healing after a Hate Crime

vigil

The Olympia community comes together for a New Year’s Day vigil for diversity and understanding. Love > Fear!

After the hate crime attack against my synagogue last week, we not only need to repair the damage and address security measures, but we need to heal spiritually as well. I penned this prayer that I shared last Shabbat and at our community meeting the following week:

Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’eemoteinu

Our God and God of our ancestors,
Hate has been visited upon our community
Our sacred space has been violated.
We feel vulnerable, afraid, angry and broken.

God and God of our ancestors,
We pray to You:

May strength come from our vulnerability,
so we can support one another,
and receive the support of others with gratitude and humility.

May compassion come from our fear,
so we do not act from that fear,
and we can pursue justice not revenge, peace not more violence.

May wisdom come from our anger,
so we are able to see that an attack against us is an attack against all,
and we are able to join in common cause with those who are similarly oppressed and targeted.

And may healing come from our brokenness,
so we are able to rise from this challenge with renewed life, commitment and connection.

God and God of our ancestors,
In light of this act of violence and hatred,
We maintain our commitment to be the shearit Yisrael, the remnant of Israel, continually upholding the teachings and traditions of Your covenant
Pursuing righteousness and compassion
Justice and mercy
Peace and understanding.
Love and friendship.

May You frustrate those who seek to do harm
And uphold those who seek to do good.
May the shelter of Your peace spread over us and over all who dwell on earth.

And let us say, Amen

Why Did So Many People Think This Was A Picture of Snoqualmie Pass?

One of the things I love about living where I do is that you can go out to the snow, and then leave it.

Earlier this week we were preparing for our annual trip to take in the snow. We go tubing, enjoy the change of scenery, take in the Bavarian kitsch of Leavenworth. This year, following the vandalism incident at my congregation, I was especially looking forward to a quick trip away.

While we were getting ready to go, we look on Facebook to see the following picture, labeled “Snoqualmie Pass”:

highway snow

[For those not from these parts, Snoqualmie Pass is one of the main routes through the Cascade Mountains. During winter travel, one must be mindful of “the passes”—snow in the mountains can make the passes difficult to cross, and there is the potential they may be closed down. Drivers need to carry tire chains, and may be required to put them on in order to drive through.]

As compared to last year, we have had some welcome precipitation this winter. Rain down by sea level where we are usually means snow up in the mountains. So folks were welcoming the coming of snow, and marveling at the amounts.

Hence the picture. It was shared around Facebook many times, people commenting such as “wow!” or “This is near where I live!” I was amazed too at the photo at first, but then the more I looked at it, it seemed that something was off.

First, the sky, which seemed a little too blue for these parts, even when the sun is out. And the piles of snow seemed just too high; we had gotten snow, but not that much. And then the bus, a closer look and details began to stand out. The license plate had the shape of a foreign country, not the State of Washington or any other US plate. And it was on the opposite side of the road.

Sure enough, a Google search of “snow” and “highway” and maybe another search term or two I didn’t remember, revealed that the picture is not Snoqualmie Pass, but a highway in Japan that is known for its “snow canyon”-like atmosphere.

When we hit the pass, it was clear that the picture was definitely not of Snoqulamie Pass. But there was some truth to the photo—the snow was piled up on the side of the road like walls, about as tall as the car.

The number of people who shared the original picture, believing it was Snoqualmie Pass, was amusing to me. The original poster eventually wrote on Facebook that it was a deliberate joke, but prior to that a lot of people got taken in. At first blush it revealed the dangers of the Internet and social media—the tendency for fact checking is sometimes low, and the possibility to pass off fiction as fact is very high. Someone took a picture, put a description to it, and it was carried over the Internet. This could happen with pictures, with video, with articles.

But we can’t get away with anything, so why was this picture of a supposed Snoqualmie Pass believed so readily? As lifepartner Yohanna pointed out, the picture provided a version of the truth that people wanted to believe. Maybe it wasn’t actually Snoqualmie Pass, but the picture represented our image of what it might be, or what we experience it to be, or what we imagine it to be. That is just as real as the actual pass itself.

In the Torah reading this week, we begin the book of Exodus. We tell the story of the Israelite enslavement in Egypt, and the eventual rescue by the hand of Moses. It is a story of the plagues, of the confrontation with Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, and the dramatic crossing of the Red Sea into freedom.

Is this history? The story reads like history, it is a narrative that retells events as if historical. The question that has challenged biblical scholars is the veracity of the narrative—is this story truly historical? Did it happen? Is it fact or fiction?

Personally I don’t think the events really happened. But they are a story we tell, a version of events, that ring true to us. A story of oppression and liberation is a myth that speaks to our very core, and the story of Moses and the Exodus is a version of the truth that we believe because it reflects our outlook on reality. It doesn’t matter if it actually happened, the ideas behind the story are true.

The picture of the snow told a story, a version of events. Was it true? Was it actually Snoqualmie Pass? No. But it was a version of the truth—a truth in which snow was plentiful, a drought was ended, nature was awe-inspiring—that we can tell and retell. We shared it on the Internet not because we were falsely duped, but because we all recognized a piece of truth in it.

We tell stories. Of history, of nature, of ourselves. The beginning of the secular new year is another milestone to reflect on the stories we are telling and we are writing. So we ask, how do we see the world, how do we see each other, and how do we see ourselves? Where do we see our truth?

Happy 2016!

Fear. Anger. Hate. Suffering.

To be honest, I was going to take a break this week.

I wasn’t going to send out a weekly message this week—it is winter break from school, and with the kids home I need to alter my schedule. Plus it was Erez’s birthday yesterday, so I took time off so we can have a family adventure. And my parents are coming into town for a few days, also meaning that outside of Shabbat, I wasn’t planning to do much this week.

[And since it is probably too early to write about the new Star Wars movie without giving away any spoilers, I will hold off on that for a bit. But, please, go see it so we can talk about it!]

But then Tuesday morning, I arrive at the shul. There was a lot going on there that morning, Tuesday is one of our days hosting the warming center, which has been getting a lot of activity. And plus we had roofing contractors come to do some cleaning and repair work. It was pointed out that there was some graffiti on the statue outside the office doors, a commissioned work by local artist Simon Kogan that was presented to the Temple when we moved into our new space. Upon closer inspection, the graffiti was a swastika.

I sent out a letter to the congregation that morning, which I also posted on here on my blog and shared on Facebook. Since that went out there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the greater community. The Olympian picked up the story. Our local interfaith community partners have been notified, as has the ADL chapter in Seattle and the Olympia Police Department.

And though I would like to clean it up as soon as possible, I want to do it right, so have been in touch with Simon as to how best remove the paint without damaging the statue itself.

And while all this is happening, we continue on. Our calendar continues, and this Friday and Saturday of course is Shabbat. In our weekly Torah reading we read parashat Vayehi, the end of the book of Genesis.

In this portion, we read the end of the Joseph story. Joseph, who was sold into slavery yet who was able to rise to the heights of the Egyptian government, reconciled with the brothers who sold him. In this last part of the story, the brothers and their father Jacob move from their home in Canaan to a new home in Egypt where they will be close to Joseph. And after Jacob is reunited with his favorite son, he dies, but not before offering his blessing to his children.

Although the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers is a big part of the story, we learn in this week’s reading that it was perhaps incomplete. Once their father is dead, the brothers believe that Joseph might want to take revenge on them—that is, they think Joseph didn’t want to do anything to them as long as their father was alive, but now that he was gone Joseph will act:

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did him!’ So they sent this message to Joseph, ‘Before his death your father left this instruction: So shall you say to Joseph, ‘Forgive, I urge you, the offense and guilt of your brothers who treated you so harshly.’ Therefore, please forgive the offense of the servants of the God of your father.’ And Joseph was in tears as they spoke to him.” (Genesis 50:15-17)

The text does not record any such instruction from Jacob; the brothers seemingly make up a story in order that Joseph not do any harm to them.

Jewish tradition looks upon their act kindly, saying that it is ok to bend the truth sometimes to keep the peace. But what interests me is the brothers’ initial motivation. In this interaction with Joseph, they are clearly driven by fear.

And maybe this was their problem all along, they were driven by fear. It is what led them to first try to kill Joseph and then sell him into slavery—that they were fearful of his power of dream interpretation, or they were fearful for their own standing knowing Joseph was their father’s favorite, or they were fearful of him for no rational reason whatsoever. Fear can be seen as a motivator which led to their desire to do terrible things.

And that is the situation we are facing now. Fearmongering is taking center stage and entering the national discourse in a way that it hasn’t in the recent past. When national figures can talk in fearmongering terms about immigrants, or Muslims, or other groups and attract a large following, that is a cause of concern. It creates a culture where overt expressions of hate have the potential to become commonplace.

It creates a culture in which people feel emboldened to draw symbols of hate on Jewish institutions.

YodaAs the great sage Yoda once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (There, I was able to get in a Star Wars reference.) We see this in our earliest texts in the Joseph story. And we see this now.

I don’t know who is responsible for this, or what their motives are. There was an uptick in neonazi activity this summer surrounding the shootings of two black men by an Olympia PD officer. We have already seen TBH defaced as an extension of anti-Israel sentiment. But having a swastika is new, and has not happened as long as I have been with the congregation, and it is hard for me to not see this outside of larger events taking place within our community and nation. When we create a culture of fear, it stirs up anger which enflames hate.

We as a Jewish community will need to take this seriously. We will need to be pragmatic and do what we can to address security concerns. We will need to continue to reach out to allies for support which is so critical. And our additional challenge is for us to not go down this path of the dark side. The swastika rightly inspires fear, and that may very well have been the intention of the perpetrator. But we must not let ourselves be driven by it.

 

 

A Swastika at TBH

This morning I discovered a swastika painted on a statue outside the Temple Beth Hatfiloh building. This is the letter I sent out to my congregation community.
Friends,
This morning I arrived at TBH to find a swastika painted on the statue that graces the entrance to our offices.
Earlier this morning I read an article about how one of the bishops in Greece is blaming the Jews not only for the troubles of the Greek economy but for the increase in support for same-sex marriage, which he vehemently opposes. A recent study documented how Jews are still the number one target of hate crimes in this country. Anti-Semitism is alive and well, and we as Jews need to be mindful and cautious.
We are living in difficult times. These are times when racism is again rearing its ugly head. Islamophobia, both in the form of hateful rhetoric and attacks on Muslims, is entering the mainstream. Talk of immigration devolves into stereotyping and fearmongering. Expressions of exclusion and bias are being normalized.
I do not know who is behind this particular incident, whether this is done with malicious intent related to these trends or mindless pranksterism. We have experienced vandalism recently stretching back a few weeks, primarily our exterior courtyard outlet being broken several times, which we have subsequently removed. Graffiti has adorned our walls in the past. Indeed, the statue also had eyes and teeth drawn on it. But whatever the reason, a swastika is not mere vandalism-it is a symbol of hatred with deep resonance with Jews, and shakes us to our core, especially in a community in which we are constantly reminded of our minority status. (And this is the first instance of a swastika being drawn on the synagogue in recent history.)
I have taken photos of the graffiti and filed a report with the Olympia Police Department, which is rightfully labeling this a hate crime. I have alerted our partners through Interfaith Works and Unity in the Community about the incident. And I have been in touch with the artist, Simon Kogan, for guidance on how to best clean the statue without damaging it.
And I will say again as I have in the past, that in the face of hatred, we must continue to do what we always do: to live our lives as Jews out loud and in meaningful ways, to commit ourselves to our Jewish community and to Jewish continuity, to engage with our greater community, to perform acts of social justice and to stand up for those who are similarly oppressed. It is in this way that those who seek to marginalize us, those who seek to threaten us, those who seek to inspire fear in us will not succeed.
L’shalom,
Rabbi Seth Goldstein
statue

A Very Pagan Hanukkah

 

Today is the fifth day of Hanukkah if you are reading this after sunset (which you probably are, since I didn’t post it until after sunset.) This is a special day of this eight day holiday because it is the first day in which we have more light than darkness. When we light the candles corresponding to the day of the holiday, we also have empty holes on the menorah corresponding with the days left. The fifth day is the first day when we have more candles than empty holes.

The stories of why we celebrate Hanukkah are well known. How the Maccabees led a revolt against King Antiochus who put severe restrictions on Jewish practice, and how that revolt was eventually successful. And how, upon entering the Temple to rededicate it after it had been defiled, the Maccabees only found one day’s worth of oil that ended up burning for eight.

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But perhaps the most basic story, the most visceral aspect of Hanukkah, is that we hold a festival during the darkest time of year. This is a story in and of itself, that facing a dark time of year, a community responds by creating light.

Indeed, a passage from our Talmud hints at this:

When Adam saw the day gradually diminishing, he said, “Woe is me! Perhaps because I sinned, the world around me is growing darker and darker, and is about to return to chaos and confusion, and this is the death heaven has decreed for me. He then sat eight days in fast and prayer. But when the winter solstice arrived, and he saw the days getting gradually longer, he said, “Such is the way of the world,” and proceeded to observe eight days of festivity. The following years he observed both the eight days preceding and the eight days following the solstice as days of festivity. (Avodah Zarah 8a)

The Talmud describes an eight day festival around the time of the winter solstice. And so while much is made about the pagan roots of Christmas trees, we should not neglect to notice the pagan roots of Hanukkah. And by pagan, I mean a recognition of and ritual acknowledgement of the natural cycles of the world. Judaism is rooted in earth-based spirituality.

We can imagine the sentiment expressed by Adam in this midrash (commentary). We can imagine what it must have been like to be the first human on earth, noticing the shortening of the days as summer turned into fall turned into winter. And we can imagine the fear that must bring, to think that darkness is going to be overwhelming the light, how that is a “the death heaven has decreed.” And then to imagine what it must have been like to then see the days growing longer, and to know that it is not the death of the world, but its rebirth.

We can agree with the rabbis: this cycle of darkness and light is worthy of celebration.

As our calendar is lunar-based, we don’t acknowledge the solstice per se. But Hanukkah does run through Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new month, which is marked by the new moon. And the new moon means no moon. So Hanukkah does run over the new moon that is closest to the solstice, or, in other words, over the darkest night of the year that is closest to the longest night of the year.

[And in an interesting bit of weather related news for our geographic region, it was reported that Seattle is also seeing its darkest days in nine years.]

So while we often speak of Hanukkah as marking a revolution and a rededication, we can also celebrate Hanukkah as a rebirth—the rebirth of our world as we cycle through the seasons. (And interestingly the next holiday after Hanukkah is Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, celebrating new buds and growth.) Days will soon grow longer, the amount of light will increase. This is “the way of the world,” and for that we are grateful.

And as we move towards the end of Hanukkah, we look upon the menorah and see that the light is increasing. As we look upon the menorah, at least for this night, when the light is greater than the darkness, let’s not think of Maccabees and swords, or jars and seals. Let’s think of the light itself, and how it brings us comfort and security, how we welcome back the lengthening of days, and how we, in our power, light up the darkness that surrounds us.