From Our Rabbi
We have focused on the miracle thing and I think we often overlook the message of Hanukkah. To me, the core of the holiday is the cleansing of the temple… The accomplishment was in restoring the temple to the purpose which it was built. Now think of the temple as a symbol. Perhaps it represents my life. The world has tried to use for its own (perhaps good, but none-the-less extrinsic) purposes. But now I can rededicate myself to my own original purpose. Ralph Levy Another View
Once more the Holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah intersect. I don’t know which is more difficult to deal with; when they coincide or when they fall far apart. Credit or blame the Jewish calendar which is based on the cycles of the moon with its 19 year intercalculation of the solar calendar. (This is why we have a leap month every 2nd or 3rd year)
What they have in common is apparent; a time to keep warm as the shortest days approach, the emphasis on light and the never ending calories to be enjoyed and avoided. As for the themes of history they could not be more different. The Messianism in the Christian celebration is paramount, a concept that we sired but whose fulfillment awaits us still. Our celebratory theme emphasized freedom. But most distinctively it is the Jewish insistence that our uniqueness was worth the sacrifice and that our struggles to remain Jewish are to be heralded. That another message of freedom of diversity for all people has been grafted on to our holiday is worthy, but not central. The tendency to emphasize the latter as we ignore the distinctive message of being Jewish for its own sake is our loss.
This has led to the universalization of Chanukah as a sad usurpation by non-Jews of our holiday. It takes the form of the odd celebration
called Chrismakah, a false fusion of the two traditions that are not fully the same, but in some measure quite different. Other fake aspects like Chanukah tinsel is imitation of Christmas as is the so-called Hanukkah bush. The Christmas tree, to thoughtful devout Christian devotes, is filled with great meaning; the tinsel is the angel’s hair that flowed at Jesus’ birth, the star at the top is the Star of Bethlehem announcing his birth, the wreath with red berries is the future blood spilled on his crown of thorns. None of these comport with Jewish belief or practice. More than this it is usurpation of Christian holy objects which ought not to be done.
I know I am in the “meaning business” and I tend to take all traditions seriously and respectfully. I appreciate Christmas, Kwanza, and Chinese New Year, but from afar. They are not my celebrations.
Boundaries are important to respect.
Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm, The Mystic lights of emblem, and the Word. Emma Lazarus The Feast of Lights
Wishing you a great Hanukkah, Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.
The Rabbi’s Brown Bag Lunch Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm The Advice of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav
Nachman of Breslov (Hebrew: ,)מברסלב נחמן(April 4, 1772 – October 16, 1810), was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
Rebbe Nachman, a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, breathed new life into the Ha- sidic movement by combining the esoteric secrets of Judaism (the Kabbalah) with in- depth Torah scholarship. He attracted thousands of followers during his lifetime, and his influence continues until today through many Hasidic movements such as Breslov Hasid- ism. Rebbe Nachman’s religious philosophy revolved around closeness to God and speaking to God in normal conversation “as you would with a best friend.” The concept of hitbodedut (an unstructured, spontaneous and individualized form
of prayer and meditation) is central to his thinking.
“It is very good to pour out your thoughts before God like a child pleading before his fa- ther. God calls us His children, as it is written (Deuteronomy 14:1), “You are children to God.” Therefore, it is good to express your thoughts and troubles to God like a child complaining and pestering his father.”
From the Heart: A Tale of Two Jews!
At the time of writing, two teams will face off in an effort to end “their curse!” They are the Cubs who have not won a World Championship since 1908 and the Cleveland Indians whose deficit goes back to 1948. Being ethnocentric, I thought it important to research the Jewish connections not only to these years (1908 – Turkey gave Jews political rights) and (1948 – the State of Israel is founded) but to two “Jewish” ball players who were present at their last victories: Al Rosen (Cleveland Indians 1947 – 56) and Johnny Kling(Chicago Orphans/Cubs (1900–1908,1910–1911). Though each was part of the historic victories for their respective teams, these two could not have been more different.
Al Rosen was born (guess where?) in Spartanburg. His life was the stuff about which movies were made: Navy Lieutenant in WWII (He navigated an assault boat in the initial landing on Okinawa in the bitter battle for the island.), professional boxer, stockbroker, and baseball executive. (In 1978 he became President/CEO of the Yankees (1978–79), then the Astros (1980–85), then president and general manager of the Giants (1985–92).) While many a legend is celebrated about Sandy Koufax’s bravado and of Hank Greenberg’s refusal to allow an anti-Semitic barb to go unanswered, Rosen was that and more. Rosen challenged an opposing player who had “slurred [his] religion” to fight him under the stands. And during a game, when Red Sox bench player Matt Batts taunted Rosen with anti-Semitic names, Rosen called time and left his position on the field to confront Batts. Hank Greenberg recalled that Rosen “wanted to go into the stands and murder” fans who hurled anti-Semitic insults at him. For this reason alone he was called the “Hebrew Hammer!”
By comparison, while Johnny Kling was a fine ball player, his “Jewishness” was quite questionable. Like Rosen, he led a decent and productive life. Baseball player: owner of a baseball team where he desegregated the stands so blacks could sit with whites freely and without recrimination and an owner of a legendary hotel and billiard parlor which gained a national reputation. As for his Jewishness, the picture is less clear. Historians have debated his ethnicity for nearly a century. While his wife and children were undoubtedly Jewish (they were married by a rabbi), Kling’s identity has been sidelined for decades. Rumors abounded that his wife falsely claimed he converted to Christianity to better his chances of making it into the Hall of Fame. Bogen is a retired Chicago psychiatrist and author of the recently published book, “Johnny Kling: A Baseball Biography” (McFarland & Company). A lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, Bogen maintains that Kling, the hub of the 1906-10 Cubs, “deserves to be recognized as the first Jewish baseball star. Not Greenberg.”
After spending an hour researching this history, I must plead what my teacher called “Historical agnosticism,” a fancy way of saying “I have no idea!”
However, this “Tale of the Two Jews” does give me pause. If Kling was Jewish, he clung loosely to his heritage while Rosen did cling on to his heritage unashamedly and proudly.
He was the truest champion on the field and off, standing tall, holding the line against all those who sought to diminish him and his faith.
By the time this writing reaches your eyes we may well know who has won or who will most likely win the series, The Cubs or Cleveland, both deserving, both worthy. I imagine both Rosen and Kling will be watching the games from on high.
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.