One of my favorite Yiddish expressions is “Mitten d’rinen!” roughly translated as “In the middle of everything!” Two examples:
You finally settle down in the bathtub after a long arduous day and the doorbell rings! “Mitten d’rinen!”
It is some long-lost relative who happens to drop in unexpectedly; or you are on an important business call and a friend
beeps in on your cell phone who just has to ask you one question. “Mitten d’rinen!” Not now!
I tend to think of the end of February as a “Mitten d’rinen!” time of the year. Winter is not quite over, and Spring is just a few weeks away.
No mistake that Groundhog Day takes place in the first week of this month. It is a lovely tradition that is steeped in silliness and in anticipation of the end of one season giving way to the next.
This year’s turn of the season adds another and more painful aspect beyond the chilling effects of winter which will hopefully abate.
The pandemic is still with us, painfully with us! We all know the statistics for each day brings a shocking review of death and illness. The vaccines are finally here
as are other measures that if followed will minimize harm. It is human nature to practice denial. Some think they are indestructible and have some special
immunity from this plague. Some religious leaders in defiance have done what they could to ignore the proscriptions and prescriptions. One woman, a devout Christian,
was questioned why she was gathering at church service with hundreds of others. She cheerfully insisted: “I am bathed in the blood of Christ” which somehow offered her immunity.
Such foolishness is not limited to Christian devotees as many of our traditional brethren have also gathered for huge celebrations. In all instances, illness and death follow.
I am as anxious as anyone to return to our sanctuary filled with members. It is still not safe! We remain virtual! All of us are filled with an anxiety (or should be) about how diligent we need to be.
Many of my rabbinical colleagues often face pressure to allow services to resume in the temple. There is a wide range of responses to life cycle events. I have elected at this perilous time
to officiate at our cemetery sadly for funerals and unveilings, practicing distancing and mask wearing. Many of my colleagues will only officiate virtually. I respect their choice. Home visits
are out of the question for many. I have continued at holiday time to visit members with some trepidation. Hospital visits are not possible now. It is ironic that the holiday of masks is upon us, Purim!
Beyond the comedy of the normal celebrations is a subtext about the threat to Jewish life. It is for the foreseeable future Purim every day. I wish it were otherwise. In Hebrew the word for
patience is Savlanut. It is related to Hebrew root Samech Bet Lamed – S B L meaning toleration or suffering. There is an old equivalent in English. In a scene from the
film Dr. Zhivago, Yuri’s half-brother Yefgraf says, “He suffered me to buy him a new suit of clothes!” (The book is better by the way!)
I wish one and all Savlanut, patience at this time and not suffering. Purim and joy is if not around the corner – it is in view!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.
Join the Rabbi this Sunday, December 6 at 10:00 for Story Time. This is for kids of all ages. There will be Kiddish Yiddish and the book The 8 Knights of Hanukkah. This will take place via Facebook Live (and not Zoom as in Temple Topics).
There are two Chanukahs! One of them commemorates the military victory of the Maccabees over the Hellenistic forces of the Greek Syrians. The other is the familiar tale that was spun over a century and a half later: the oil lasting eight days. Which one do you prefer? As for me it depends on my mood which is often a consequence of current events. After the sixth day war in which Israel averted what could have been a second Holocaust in that century, the military narratives tended to prevail. That bravado was for me best summed up in my relatives’ home which featured a spent Israel shell – one foot long converted into a Menorah! Later on such images in a more kumbaya time, when the confusion about America’s prosecution of the Viet Nam war prevailed, the peaceful view took center stage.
Hanukkah which of course was a minor holiday in decades past has become more popular. Other holidays such as Sukkot which seems to be an afterthought to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur go largely uncelebrated. They were in times gone by far more important in their observance and spiritual implications. No longer! Before its comparisons to Christmas this minor holiday was for kids only! Gift giving was a limited affair. Nobody exchanged gifts as some do in great abundance. Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song is representative of this phenomenon with its tongue in cheek boast about eight gifts as opposed to the one gift at Christmas. It is my view that the overt attention to materialism has diminished the holiday’s spiritual import.
I realize that I am swimming against the tide. I don’t know how we can reverse that trajectory. As we are in recovery from this election and its vituperative dynamics in which the bar has been lowered beyond reasonable satire and criticism (the conspiratorial accusations, mocking of men with disabilities, the attack on time honored institutions), some bells are hard to un-ring. Personal attacks abide on those who are simply expressing their views. Like the Menorah, we will shed more light and generate less heat. I hope in our relationships we can as it has been said to disagree without being disagreeable!
Happy Hanukkah any way you celebrate its meaning.
YOSSI LIEBOWITZ, Rabbi
Monday, December 7 at 7:00
In partnership with The Spartanburg Historical Foundation’s Holiday Traditions event, they will join Rabbi Liebowitz in the temple kitchen as he shares various foods usually prepared for Hanukkah. This will be a Facebook live event on the Foundation’s page.
Following this unusual year of cancellations and missed traditions, join SCHA throughout the holiday season to celebrate some of the beloved traditions of Spartanburgers throughout the years!
SCHA’s own tradition of displaying the James Buchanan dioramas of “A Visit From St. Nicholas” will continue with the fully restored, lighted scenes on full display!
Thanks to partnership with the Spartanburg Jaycees and Carolina Cash, see floats from past Spartanburg Christmas Parades and learn more about the charitable events the parade supports in our town!
Memories of “Dickens of a Christmas” are on display set within the Victorian display within the Decorative Arts hall of the Regional History Museum!
In partnership with Temple B’nai Israel, a collection of Hanukkah traditions including menorahs, dreidels, and latke platters is on loan from members of Spartanburg’s synagogue.
And finally, view a beautiful collection of nativity scenes on loan from a private collector.
Exhibit Open Saturday, Nov. 7- Sat. Jan. 2. Located in the Spartanburg Regional History Museum
(200 E. St. John St., Spartanburg).
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm Saturday, 11am-4pm
Closed Sunday & Monday
Maximum capacity in museum is 6 guests. Masks are REQUIRED in the museum.
Please follow “No Touch” policy with all items and exhibits.