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TCS Bulletin - The Dedication of our Torah

Whenever I have my first meeting with a Bnei Mitzvah family, amongst the questions that I ask, I always like to find out what the young person's favorite festival is. Often they will look a little bit embarrassed and tentatively say Chanukah. I reassure them that there is nothing wrong with that being their festival of choice, after all it does involve eight nights of presents and an abundance of comical YouTube clips.

In the midst of the modern celebrations and after the Rabbis' decision to focus on the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days, the original meaning and story of the festival has been somewhat lost. Originally the festival celebrated a miracle, but not of oil burning slowly, instead it was the miracle of the Jewish resistance fighter's success against their Greek rulers. The Jews took on, and defeated, the superpower of their day, in what was a miraculous victory. The final success came with the rededication of the Temple, which had been subverted and abused by the Greek occupiers.

The name Chanukah speaks to the festival's origins. The Hebrew root behind the name is ח-נ-כ chet-nun-chaf, which has a meaning related to dedication. The name was therefore a celebration of the rededication of the Temple. On the festival we celebrate the rededication of the Temple for its sacred purpose as the then center of Jewish life and worship.

Living under foreign rule, the early Rabbis were worried about a story which glorified revolution and rebellion, and so they shifted the focus away from the military victory to one about the miraculous oil.

This Chanukah we will have a unique opportunity to simultaneously celebrate both aspects of the festival. As we do each year we will have a special Chanukah service on the Shabbat during the festival (this year on December 14th). The sanctuary will be lit up as we light candles to expel the darkness and remember the miracle of the oil lighting up the Temple. But this year we will also have the chance to celebrate a dedication as we dedicate our new Torah scroll.

As you should know we have been writing a Torah scroll as part of our Etz Chaim 60th year celebrations. On December 2nd, as a community, we will be finishing the writing of our Torah, and less than two weeks later we will be dedicating it, as we welcome the Torah into it's new home, the Ark in our Sanctuary. A new Torah scroll is something which is always worth celebrating, but a Torah which has been written by members of our community is extra special.

On Chanukah we celebrate the miracles of the military victory and the oil lasting for eight days. This year we can add to the list the miracle of a Torah scroll written by young and old, men and women, families and individuals - a Torah which is the product of our community. Not simply because of the money which paid for it, but because of every person who picked up the quill and wrote their own letter in our Torah.

And if nothing else it is certainly an occasion and event which is worth celebrating. We hope that you will join us in welcoming our new Torah as part of our special Chanukah celebrations this year.


About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
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