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Rabbi David Wolpe

Rabbi David Wolpe

Posted: November 30, 2010 08:00 PM

"So the King and all the people dedicated the house of God" (2 Chronicles 7:5).

This verse tells us of the dedication of the Temple. That would seem to be a central event of Jewish history. Although it took place on the festival of Sukkot, the holiday does not celebrate that dedication. This verse tells us of the dedication and the context informs us when it happened; nonetheless there is no holiday in the Jewish tradition devoted to remembering the dedication of the Mishkan (portable tabernacle) in the wilderness, or either Temple. Yet we celebrate Hanukkah, when the Temple was restored to its former glory. Why?

Hanukkah is about something more important than dedication -- rededication. In our lives, what we do once is hardly as important as what we do over and over again. The great rabbinic authority Joseph Caro asks, if Hanukkah is about a miracle, and the oil which was only supposed to last one day lasted eight, then why don't we celebrate Hanukkah for seven days? After all, the first day of the oil burning was no miracle!

But of course the greatest miracle was the resolution to rededicate. After persecution and all the trials of life in those days, when the Temple was defiled and the people forbidden to practice Judaism, Jews still clung fast to their faith. On that first day beleaguered Jews still wanted to light the Menorah. God's miracle came later. The miracle of the Jewish people, of faith, came first.

On this festival of lights, we should remember the miraculous renewal of passion, of love, of devotion to God and the Jewish people. "Hanukkah" is rededication. The drive to rededicate that which has fallen into disuse is profoundly important. Can we see sparks of holiness beneath the dust of a neglected prayer book? Does our Hanukkah Menorah glow, however dim and distant the light? Rededication -- that is the miracle. The world is rife with worthy causes we have taken up with enthusiasm and then abandoned. Rededicate yourself to repairing God's anguished world. If we manage that, the oil will burn for countless nights to come.