The Feast Of Lights – A Poem by Emma Lazarus

In the spirit of Chanukah I offer this beautiful poem Emma Lazarus
R.Jonah Ritter

One of the lauded poets in her time, Emma Lazarus (1849 – 1887) is most famous for her poem the New Colosus. A verse from that poem is famously engrazed on the Statue of Liberty.

THE FEAST OF LIGHTS:

Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening’s forehead o’er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.

Remember how from wintry dawn till night,
Such songs were sung in Zion, when again
On the high altar flamed the sacred light,
And, purified from every Syrian stain,
The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung,
With crowns and silken spoils, and at the shrine,
Stood, midst their conqueror-tribe, five chieftains sprung
From one heroic stock, one seed divine.

Five branches grown from Mattathias’ stem,
The Blessed John, the Keen-Eyed Jonathan,
Simon the fair, the Burst-of Spring, the Gem,
Eleazar, Help of-God; o’er all his clan
Judas the Lion-Prince, the Avenging Rod,
Towered in warrior-beauty, uncrowned king,
Armed with the breastplate and the sword of God,
Whose praise is: ‘He received the perishing.’

They who had camped within the mountain-pass,
Couched on the rock, and tented neath the sky,
Who saw from Mizpah’s heights the tangled grass
Choke the wide Temple-courts, the altar lie
Disfigured and polluted-who had flung
Their faces on the stones, and mourned aloud
And rent their garments, wailing with one tongue,
Crushed as a wind-swept bed of reeds is bowed,

Even they by one voice fired, one heart of flame,
Though broken reeds, had risen, and were men,
They rushed upon the spoiler and o’ercame,
Each arm for freedom had the strength of ten.
Now is their mourning into dancing turned,
Their sackcloth doffed for garments of delight,
Week-long the festive torches shall be burned,
Music and revelry wed day with night.

Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm,
The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word.
Where is our Judas? Where our five-branched palm?
Where are the lion-warriors of the Lord?
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Sound the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn,
Chant hymns of victory till the heart take fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born!

Emma Lazarus

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Survival Requires Both Sustenance and Sweetness

(Cross-posted to This is What a Rabbi Looks Like)

Rather than create my own haggadah for our 2nd night seder, my family builds upon a basic template like The Promise Haggadah or, this year, The Kitchen Passover Game. We add readings, songs, and reflections (one of mine appears on the Jewish Women’s Archive Blog, “Jewesses with Attitude”), as well as a break for discussion just before dinner. This year’s discussion topic appears below:

The earliest version of the Passover seder appears in the Mishnah, a rabbinic text from 2nd century Israel. While most of the rules deal with commemorating the Passover sacrifice, the final chapter lays out the rites and rituals of the seder itself. The very first instruction is this:

“On the eve of Passover from the time of the afternoon offering, no one must eat until nightfall. Even the poorest Israelite should not eat on the night of Passover until he reclines at his table. And they should provide him with no fewer than four cups of wine, even if the funds come from public charity” (Mishnah Pesachim 10:1).

The rabbis took their responsibility to care for the poor very seriously. Though the members of the Jewish communities of that era were by no means part of the one-percent, they pooled resources and provided handouts to the poor on a daily basis, assessing each person’s need and responding accordingly: whether that was bread and water, wine and meat, a horse and driver, or even a house and a wife! (Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 67a-68a).

Today, we find ourselves in a society in which we debate whether the poor are entitled to assistance even to meet their most basic needs. Lawmakers and commentators argue about whether the poor deserve “luxuries” such as fresh produce, quality education, or even disposable diapers.

Here, the rabbis make a powerful statement about how we care for the poor. In the Mishnah, including the poor in the celebration does not stop with providing ha lachma anya, the bread of affliction. We must also provide the most decadent aspects of the seder experience:

Though the Torah commanded to eat the original Pesach offering with “your loins girded, sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand…hurriedly” (Ex. 12:11), the rabbis demand that even the poorest among us have the freedom to stop working for several hours and recline. How many of today’s working poor would have that same freedom? How many on public assistance could afford to buy a bottle of wine, and not face any judgment for doing so? Though the Torah mentions nothing at all about four cups of wine, the rabbis insist that we provide even our poorest neighbors with this luxury.

Which means, of course, that the rabbis did not define these provisions as luxuries, but rather as necessities. The celebration of a festival such as Passover was not an “extra,” but an integral part of every Jewish life. Survival, then, is not about meeting one’s most basic needs. Survival requires joy and celebration. Because otherwise, what’s the point?

At the end of our seders we say, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” and throughout the seder we remember God’s promise to “bring [us] into a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8). This reminds us that true redemption requires both sustenance and sweetness.

Milkhoney

As we gather around our seder table we ask ourselves: What is it that a person needs in order to survive in our society today? What is it that a person needs in order to thrive? And how can we be a part of providing both sustenance and sweetness to everyone in our community?

Questions to ask at your Passover Seder:

  1. What is something you need in order to survive?
  2. What is something you need in order to thrive? What brings you joy?
  3. How might we help those in need to have access to what brings them joy?

Chag sameach and a Zisn Pesach (Sweet Passover) to all!

Eight Nights of Mitzvot, Part VI

Melissa, Rachel and Brianna Erlebacher celebrate the sixth night of Chanukah by throwing a party and showcasing the Jewish value of Hachnasat Orchim (Welcoming Guests)!

Watch the Erlebacher’s Video!

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Service Friday TONIGHT at 7:00 p.m.

Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

Activity ideas: Have a Chanukah party and invite people over! Invite someone who is single to dinner, services or out to coffee. Or you can help out The Birthday Project.

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

How to Light Chanukah Candles

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Dinner and Service Friday 12/11
5:30 p.m. Annual pot-luck dinner. Bring a dairy dish for 12; Sisterhood will provide latkes, applesauce, challah, salad and beverages. Cost: $18 per family or $6 per individual. RSVP by Tuesday 12/8 to Roni Stein 223-5804 or roniagt99@aol.com Send your check to Vassar Temple Sisterhood with “Chanukah Dinner” on the memo line.

7:00 p.m. Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most!

Eight Nights of Mitzvot, Part V

Rabbi Berkowitz shares eight things you may not know about Chanukah to fulfill the mitzvah of Talmud Torah (Jewish Learning)

Watch Rabbi Berkowitz’s Video!

Activity ideas: Play “Torah Jeopardy” (give the questions to which Torah names and places are the answer); make a play of the Torah portion of the week (usually part of the Joseph story, very dramatic!); make Torah scrolls with citations or pictures of our favorite verses of Torah in them, gift to one another; draw a picture of how you imagine your favorite biblical hero or heroine looked and tell his/her story to your family; download and play “Middot-opoly  – it’s a game for learning Jewish values! 

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

How to Light Chanukah Candles

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Dinner and Service Friday 12/11
5:30 p.m. Annual pot-luck dinner. Bring a dairy dish for 12; Sisterhood will provide latkes, applesauce, challah, salad and beverages. Cost: $18 per family or $6 per individual. RSVP by Tuesday 12/8 to Roni Stein 223-5804 or roniagt99@aol.com Send your check to Vassar Temple Sisterhood with “Chanukah Dinner” on the memo line.

7:00 p.m. Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most!

Eight Nights of Chanukah, Part IV

Shira and Dan Teich celebrate the fourth night of Chanukah, and the Jewish value of Kibud Av Va’Em (Honoring Your Parents)

Watch Shira and Dan’s Video!

Activity ideas:  Give gifts to parents and grandparents; adopt an elder who doesn’t have children for the evening or more; tell stories about family, maybe craft projects honoring family who have died; make a coupon book of things you will do for a parent or grandparent in the coming year; visit the graves of parents or grandparents who have died and leave a stone; buy a gift from Yad L’Kashish (Lifeline to the Elderly) in Israel or volunteer with or donate to Friends of Seniors!

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

How to Light Chanukah Candles

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Dinner and Service Friday 12/11
5:30 p.m. Annual pot-luck dinner. Bring a dairy dish for 12; Sisterhood will provide latkes, applesauce, challah, salad and beverages. Cost: $18 per family or $6 per individual. RSVP by Tuesday 12/8 to Roni Stein 223-5804 or roniagt99@aol.com Send your check to Vassar Temple Sisterhood with “Chanukah Dinner” on the memo line.

7:00 p.m. Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most!

Eight Nights of Chanukah, Part III

Marsha and Glenn Tanzman celebrate the third night of Chanukah, and the Jewish value of Hoda’ah (Gratitude)

Watch Marsha and Glenn’s Video!

Activity ideas:  Write a thank you card to someone who isn’t expecting it; write a thank you card to another member of the household; make a list of things for which we are grateful, then make a “bouquet” of those things by making paper flowers and writing the items on them and use it to decorate the table next Shabbat; play the ABC Gratitude game as a family (name something for which you are grateful for each letter of the alphabet); see how many times you can say “thank you” to people during the day. Support an organization that sustains families, such as our local domestic violence shelter, Grace Smith House www.gracesmithhouse.org or Habitat for Humanity www.habitatdutchess.com

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

How to Light Chanukah Candles

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Dinner and Service Friday 12/11
5:30 p.m. Annual pot-luck dinner. Bring a dairy dish for 12; Sisterhood will provide latkes, applesauce, challah, salad and beverages. Cost: $18 per family or $6 per individual. RSVP by Tuesday 12/8 to Roni Stein 223-5804 or roniagt99@aol.com Send your check to Vassar Temple Sisterhood with “Chanukah Dinner” on the memo line.

7:00 p.m. Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most!

Eight Nights of Chanukah, Part II

Zoe Weinstein and Betty Gibbs celebrate the second night of Chanukah and the mitzvah of Tzedek (Justice) by writing their senators!

Watch Zoe and Betty’s Video!

Activity ideas:  Write a letter to an elected official or newspaper editor about an issue of justice; teach each other about a justice issue dear to us; make and decorate a family tzedakah box; give tzedakah to an organization that works for justice; join a campaign at Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism  www.rac.org

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

How to Light Chanukah Candles

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Dinner and Service Friday 12/11
5:30 p.m. Annual pot-luck dinner. Bring a dairy dish for 12; Sisterhood will provide latkes, applesauce, challah, salad and beverages. Cost: $18 per family or $6 per individual. RSVP by Tuesday 12/8 to Roni Stein 223-5804 or roniagt99@aol.com Send your check to Vassar Temple Sisterhood with “Chanukah Dinner” on the memo line.

7:00 p.m. Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most.

Eight Nights of Mitzvot, Part I

Introducing….

VASSAR TEMPLE CHANUKAH – 8 EIGHT NIGHTS OF MITZVOT

Chag Urim Sameach (Happy Festival of Lights)!

This Chanukah, the Vassar Temple Ritual Committee is performing Eight Mitzvot (Commandments) for Eight Nights of Chanukah.

Each night, a different member of our committee will be lighting the Chanukiyah (Chanukah menorah) and performing a special mitzvah for the day.

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most.

Happy Chanukah,

Rabbi Leah R. Berkowitz

Sandra Mamis, Ritual Committee Chair, Vassar Temple

Video: Sandra Mamis and David Hecht explain the rituals of Chanukah, and the Jewish value of Nedivut (Generosity)

Activity ideas: Go shopping for a needy family; shop for a local “Toys for Tots” drive or for a food bank; visit an animal shelter and give them your old towels and sheets for bedding

Helpful Hints: How to Light Chanukah Candles

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Dinner and Service Friday 12/11
5:30 p.m. Annual pot-luck dinner. Bring a dairy dish for 12; Sisterhood will provide latkes, applesauce, challah, salad and beverages. Cost: $18 per family or $6 per individual. RSVP by Tuesday 12/8 to Roni Stein 223-5804 or roniagt99@aol.com Send your check to Vassar Temple Sisterhood with “Chanukah Dinner” on the memo line.

7:00 p.m. Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

 

 

 

 

Eight Nights of Mitzvot, Part VIII

Ron Rosen and Joel and Sam Kelson celebrate the eighth night of Chanukah, and the Jewish value of Rachmanut (Compassion)

Watch Ron, Sam and Joel’s Video!

Activity ideas:  Volunteer at a food bank or similar nonprofit.  Vassar Temple supports Dutchess Outreach where we provide a meal at LunchBox on the first Sunday of every month.  Give out clean, new tube socks to people on the street asking for help; visit someone who is shut-in, if possible light the menorah with them; during the week of Chanukah give one dollar to every person you see begging (keep a stash of dollars just for them)…talk about how it felt at the end of the week.

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

How to Light Chanukah Candles

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most!

Eight Nights of Chanukah, Part VII

Melissa Wall celebrates the seventh night of Chanukah, and shares her love of Israeli music and the Jewish value of Ahavat Yisrael (Love for Israel)

Watch Melissa’s Video!

Activity ideas:  Give tzedakah to an Israeli organization or a local Jewish organization; watch an Israeli or Jewish-themed film together & discuss over popcorn; put on Israeli music or Klezmer and dance! Give to an organization that promotes religious freedom in Israel such as the Israel Religious Action Center.

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

How to Light Chanukah Candles

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most!