Dedication of Menorah
by Jeffrey Altbush
I have so many thoughts in my head and so many feelings in my heart on this special day. But given the nature of this gift, I especially want to speak to the children in the congregation. I want to tell you two stories that will help you to understand exactly how Faith’s mother and I feel.
Light Over Darkness
First, I want to tell you the story of Chanukah in a way that no one has ever told it to you before. You all know the basic story, right? Over 2,000 years ago, the Syrian king, Antiochus, ruled the Jewish people and decreed that they worship other gods. Led by Judah Maccabee, the Jews resisted and were successful in reclaiming the Temple in Jerusalem. They wanted to light the eternal light in the temple, but had only enough oil for the light to burn for a single day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.
So, here’s the part you didn’t know. Chanukah took place in Israel during a period of suffering called the exile of darkness. For 180 years, the Jews were not allowed to practice their religion. This was darkness, because nothing is as dark as the enslavement of the human mind. This was darkness because it took away the light of their religion, the light of God. But you know the story. The Jews fought back against this darkness and they won. Chanukah expresses the victory of light over darkness.
Well, there are other kinds of darkness in the world, even today. There is the darkness that comes when something terrible happens to someone you know and care about. That darkness can make you feel sad; it can make you feel afraid. It can make you doubt the purpose of God and religion in your life. But you can fight this darkness. In the words of scholar Rav Mendel Weinbach, "You can attack it by fighting whatever is wrong in the world; or, you can create such a tremendous light where you are that the darkness just fades away."
And that, children, is what you have done. You have created such a tremendous light for this church. You have brought us this menorah and the light of its candles. And you have brought us the light of your kindness and your generosity.
Let me read a poem to you by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair, called "My Child"
My Child, By the time you read this,
I may be well in a different world.
I wanted you to know
Of all the hopes
And all the prayers
that have ever left my lips.
But if the breath of time will allow
but one short message in a bottle,
you should know,
that of all the things I hope and pray
you should cherish the little candle
in your heart
and let it outshine all the darknesses.
Now let me tell you my second story. It is a story about giving thanks. Marilyn and I thank all of you for this special way of remembering our daughter, Faith.
But you know Faith would have had a simpler way of saying all of this. When Faith was four years old, she developed her own unique way of accepting a gift. She would say, "Kiss you". The first time she said this, we all laughed and thought she was silly. But then we thought about it, we realized that it was a simple and beautiful sentiment. To Faith, there was no difference between giving her thanks and giving her love. And that is what we are trying to say to all of you today. So as I say to you now, "Kiss you", you should know that you have the love of my family. Most especially, you have Faith’s love as well.