December 1st marks the 10th anniversary of my first day as Rabbi of our congregation. As it happens, this year, the festival of Chanukkah begins that evening, with the lighting of the first candle. It feels very appropriate. Chanukkah means ‘dedication’. The rededication of the Temple in 164 BCE marked a new beginning in the life of the Jewish people. Similarly, ten years is a milestone; the completion of a decade that also invites a rededication.
Significantly, my 10th anniversary as Rabbi coincides with plans to transform the synagogue building, so that it may be better suited to our needs, and to the future life of the congregation. There is a long way to go yet before the builders move in, but it is fitting that this Chanukkah, our remembrance of a transformational moment in the life of our people be combined with each one of us thinking about how we might contribute to the task of rededicating our community for tomorrow.
It feels like a daunting task – where to start? The eight days of Chanukkah, with the steady accumulation of flames, provides a helpful device. So, as you light candles this year, I invite you to focus your thoughts, by adding these words to the traditional blessings, and pausing to reflect:
‘As I light the first candle, I think about what it means for me to be part of the Brighton Hove Progressive Synagogue’
‘As I light two candles, I think about the part the synagogue has played in my life over the past year, and whether or not I would like to more involved’
‘As I light three candles, I think about the synagogue as a Beit K’nesset, a ‘House of Meeting’, and what kinds of social activities I would like to be participate in’
‘As I light four candles, I think about the synagogue as a Beit Midrash, a ‘House of Study’, and what Jewish learning I would like to engage in’
‘As I light five candles, I think about the synagogue as a Beit T’fillah, a ‘House of Prayer’, and which Shabbat and festival services I find most meaningful – and why’
As I light six candles, I think about what I most value about the synagogue now’
‘As I light seven candles, I think about what I would like the synagogue to become’
‘As I light eight candles, I think about what I can contribute to the development of the synagogue’
May this Chanukkah be, for all of us, a time of rededication in the life of our congregation – Chanukkah Samei’ach! Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah