Posts Tagged ‘Mitzvot’

The Sixth and Seventh Candles

I got caught up with family celebrating Chanukah this weekend, and so am posting candles six and seven together this evening.  Watching my nephew squeal over the “wheel” toys we bought him was well worth it!!

Synonym number six for light was “beacon.”  A beacon is a light signaling safety or home that can be seen from some distance away.  Synagogues try to be beacons for the Jews in our neighborhood by welcoming newcomers with open arms.  We also try to be beacons to our community by feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, hosting Alcoholics Anonymous, teaching our children, and more.  The synagogue, of course, does not do these mitzvot alone.  Our best actions come from the creative minds of our members.  What will you do in the coming year to be a beacon of light and of Jewish values to your community?

This question leads us beautifully into synonym number seven – ignite.  This word has two definitions.  1. To catch fire or cause to catch fire and 2.  To arouse an emotion.  This synonym for light is about inspiring others toward holy acts.  When I discuss their mitzvah projects with my students I often talk about how they can show their friends and neighbors how simple and wonderful it is to do a mitzvah.  That through doing things they love, they can add holiness to the world.  Have you ever seen a mitzvah that inspired you to do one too?  Can we share some examples in the comments?

Here are come examples that I found particularly inspiring.

1.  I had a student who did a bike-a-thon to raise money for the Heifer Foundation.  He and his friends got sponsors to join him.  After his Bar Mitzvah, he did the bike-a-thon every year until he graduated High School.

2.  Another student of mine made hand-made bracelets and sold them during snack time at Hebrew school to raise money for Pennies for Peace.

(Okay, I could go on about my students all day.  Here are two that are NOT from my students)

1.  The story of RandomKid.  In 2005, two teenagers “reached out to rally U.S. youth to aid survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast. Their effort ended up ranking the giving power of U.S. school children with the top FIVE U.S. corporate donors, coming in at over $10 million.”  They then founded the company, RandomKid which helps kids join together in major efforts to make the world a better place.

2.  Chana and her knitted hats for Israeli soldiers(if you are interested in knitting hats for Israeli soldiers too, you can find her website with instructions here.)  Be sure and tell me that you did!

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The Third Candle

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One of the main themes of the holiday season in that of “spreading good cheer.”  As we walk the public streets, malls, supermarkets, etc we hear its refrain.  “’Tis the season to be jolly…”  Now, I’ll grant that the demand for December mirth is geared toward Christmas, but Jews have joy in our holiday as well. 

The third set of synonyms for light is glowing or radiant.  Radiating light means not simply keeping it to oneself, but rather sharing it (or in the spirit of the season, “spreading good cheer.”)  It is a Chanukah imperative to place the lit menorah in the window for passersby to see.  I cracked a window once doing this because of the temperature differential between the flames and the outside winter air, so take care to insure that you give it a little space!

Chanukah is a great holiday to spread light into the world.  It is a Jewish “tradition” to spend Christmas eating Chinese food and going to the movies, but I know an increasing number of Jews who spend this night at homeless shelters and soup kitchens helping others celebrate their holiday and warming that night with the light of mitzvah.  Of course Christmas is a really popular time for volunteering, and I suspect the need for man-power may not be as high as on “normal” days.  But while you are feeling inspired, why not mark your calendar to do this mitzvah on a future evening when help is so much more needed.

We can be radiant by performing extra mitzvot.  You can donate blood (if you are able), time, money, and energy to helping the less fortunate.  I am very proud that Temple Beth Torah is housing the homeless this week (Dec 20-22) through Helping Hands of Rockland County.  This season is very important for charitable organizations.  Not only are people inspired by the holidays, but also by their taxes.  Donations rise as people remember that now is the time to write their tax deductible pledges. 

The Jewish people are supposed to be a “Light Unto the Nations.”  It seems to me that the “Festival of Light” is a good time to get moving on that lofty goal.

Happy Chanukah.