"The goat works its way slowly, laboriously up the mountain of winter. Though the path is treacherous, the goat never slips or falls. Sure-footed, firmly centered in the earth, the creature eventually reaches the summit."
-Peninah Adelman, Miriam’s Well
As winter deepens, and darkness arrives early, we remember that we too can reach summits of joy–even in darkness. This has been our mantra this past year, both 2020/5781, and as we finish up our holiday of light, it is all the more present in our mind.
Chanukah concludes on the second of Tevet, thus completing the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Places of prayer, such as the Temple in Jerusalem, the mishkan (the portable tabernacle that preceded the Temple), and synagogues, have always been highly prized in Jewish life. Jewish mystics teach that the body is like a temple–a dwelling-place of God and of our soul. Just as we mourn the defilement of the Temple by those who did not see it as a dwelling-place of God, so we lament the harmful ways in which we mistreat our bodies when we forget that they house our souls. The Hebrew word "Chanukah" means "dedication." Just as we celebrate the rededication of the Temple, so we affirm our own rededication and commitment to respectful treatment of our bodies, the temples of our souls.
With the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the 10th of Tevet was declared Yom Hakadish Haklali (General Day of Kaddish) to provide an opportunity to say the Kaddish (prayer for the dead) for those who died in the Holocaust whose precise date of death was unknown. Some have adopted the custom of mourning all those whose date of death is unknown on this day, including victims of war, genocide, or accidents. Yom Hakadish Haklali reflects Judaism's deliberate effort to help us honor everyone in our past. As we think about those who have come before us, we are inspired to live a life worthy of their memory.
Rabbi Chaya Bender
B'nai Israel Congregation