Thank you for your interest in my sermons. I hope you enjoy reading them. Please note that this material is under my copyright. You have my permission to forward it in its entirety, but not excerpted, as long as you include this disclaimer. I am sorry for these conditions, but they save me a lot of explaining on the other end! Jack Moline
These are my remarks for services on Friday evening, December 14.
I have been asked to speak about Chanukkah at some kind of gathering almost every night this week, and so I have a sort of stump speech, something I have each year. This year I mentioned the variety of miracles that people perceive in Chanukkah and how they all result in the same light being shined.
Now I have a smaller miracle to attribute to Chanukkah. It is not the reason for, but the result of the holiday. This minor event on the Jewish calendar has been bumped up to major status in the United States, largely because of being caught in the wake of Christmas. The result is that there is no time that what it means to be Jewish in America is on greater display than Chanukkah.
Last night was the sixth annual White House Chanukkah party. In and of itself, the event speaks volumes about our place in America. A sumptuous kosher reception was held and a High-Holy-Day-sized crowd of famous, generous and/or well-connected Jews (and their plus-ones) greeted each other inside the building that signifies the most powerful person in the most powerful nation in the world.
The President was there and spoke some about Chanukkah and, of course and importantly, about Israel. Then my colleague Rabbi Larry Bazer, in full uniform as a Lt. Col. in the Massachusetts National Guard, officiated at the lighting of the chanukkiya. The chanukkiya was provided by another colleague, David Baumann, whose synagogue was otherwise devastated by Sandy). Larry was lavishly praised by the President for his service in Afghanistan (where he spent last Chanukkah), including wonderful stories about his service.
Larry made me the proud owner of a "combat dreidle," which has now been spun on successive holidays in Kabul and the White House!
And then, at the after-party hosted by Cong. Debbie-Wasserman-Schultz at the Library of Congress, following the officiation by yet another colleague, Josh Sherwin, a unique and unprecedented performance occurred. Cong. W-S had invited the IDF Ensemble, a touring group of Israeli soldiers, to perform. Suddenly, the West Point Jewish Choir showed up after their White House appearance, having been invited by Ambassador Oren to join the IDF group. They performed two songs - "Hatikvah" and "Yerushalyim Shel Zahav" (without rehearsal). And while I am a complete amateur when it comes to creating a video on my phone, and a novice posting videos to You Tube, I think I got lucky and you can find it by using this link:
The performance does not rise to the level of an excellent group like Ein Lanu Z'man, but what it represents - the complete harmony between the United States and Israel, the unquestioned presence of Jews in American society, and the absence of any meaningful anti-Jewish prejudice in our government - is something so miraculous in the context of Jewish history that it is still hard for us, the beneficiaries of those blessings for our entire lives, to accept as normative.
But guess what - it is. Chag urim sam'eiach