Cantor's Column

Adam Stotland
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One of the most unique and important mitzvot of Hanukkah is that of pirsumei nissa – the requirement to publicize the miracle of Hanukkah. I cannot think of another holiday where so much importance is placed upon promoting it to all other nations. In the streets of Montreal we are all too familiar with station wagons driving around with Menorahs on their rooftops and of course communal lightings in parks and other public venues. We even place our Menorah in the windows of our homes and display it for all to see. The Menorah itself has been a public symbol of Israel and the Jewish people since ancient times being displayed on coins, in synagogues and of course more recently as the official emblem of the State of Israel. Why do we place such an importance on publicizing this holiday? There are many other holidays where God played a more visible and obvious role. He did not stretch out his hand and cause plagues and wonders. For the miracles of Hanukkah God was 'behind-the-scenes'. In fact, therein lies the answer : God is behind the scenes.

Greek religion and theology were based on polytheism, the belief in many gods and godesses. All gods had human characteristics and traits which were manifested in the forms of idols and practices of worship and of course there was even a king of all gods – Zeus. Their religion and beliefs were contained in the physical not the metaphysical. The ancient greek olympics being the most famous of all physical feats were held to honour Zeus. Every experience and belief required a reason and an explanation. They could not understand a people that believed in something you cannot see or touch. They could not understand one day being holier than the next or one place being holier than another. These are of course Jewish beliefs. We beleive in Shabbat, the Beit Hamikdash, we beleive that God and holiness can exist everywhere and in everything (yes even in Quebec government institutions). We believe in the physical but we bring holiness to the physical. We bring holiness to absolutely everything we do, that is our mission as Jews on this earth, to be a 'light' unto the nations.

I think this is what we are promoting with the holiday of Hanukkah. We are saying God is also behind the scenes. Some miracles are not as obvious as others. Sometimes it's hard to find and bring holiness to dark places but even the darkest of places can be illuminated by the smallest of lights.

I wish everyone a radiant holiday season. May our internal flame shine bright so that our external one can inspire others.

Cantor Adam Stotland


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