Last night was the 2nd group session of LEARNING & LIBATIONS, an adult study group through Valley Beth Shalom’s NextGEN Program. Small groups of couples (primarily) get together in the comfort of someone’s home, enjoy a little nasch, and some drinks, as we begin to engage in incredibly interesting Torah text. Sarah Shulman, an upper-classmen rab-student, leads our group with the most unique questions and texts for us to consider.
In lieu of the holiday season, our evening started off with a delicious OIL TASTING treat. A variety of flavors from a local farmers market vendor put us right in the mood to discuss the story of Chanukkah. More on THAT miracle in a moment…
Getting to Know You
A uniquely special thing about this new learning group, is that not everyone knows each other. A group of young adults living near Encino/Sherman Oaks coming together to learn though a congregation that Yosef and I are not even members of – yet, this program’s soul is rooted in contributing to the community – and for that I am so grateful.
The question of the night was: What three things would you say best characterize you?
According to Rabbi Eliezer, the 3 things that characterize a person are: his cup, his pocket and his anger. They (the rabbis) said to him: even his laughter.
After we each answered the question, we were to ponder how our answers may fit into these categories. Made for very unique conversation. How would you respond to Rabbi Eliezer’s list of how a person is characterized? What does the cup symbolize to you?
The REAL Oil Miracle??
After the fun ice-breaker, we flipped the page in our handout to a story by David Hartman called Trusting in a New Beginning; Lighting the Surviving Cruse of Oil – a well written document on the story of the oil lasting for the 8 nights in the rededication of the Temple (article can be read here). We all know the story that there was barely enough oil for one night – but what many us don’t know, is that because this was a special type of oil, one was actually not permitted to light unless they had the full amount to fulfill the deed. So, as Hartman, writes,
“The miracle of the first day was expressed in the COMMUNITY’S willingness to light a small cruse of oil without a reasonable assurance that their efforts would be sufficient to complete the rededication of the Temple. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle expressed by THOSE WHO LIT THE LAMP and not only the miracle of the lamp’s continued burning for eight days.”
The article later goes on to say that we as individuals MUST take risks. Sometimes, we need to ignore the “voice of reason” and allow for miracles to occur. We all have things in our lives that we say we can’t do or that we don’t have time to make happen….but what if there is more “oil” in the jar than we think there is?
“The ‘miracle’ of Jewish spiritual survival may best be described by our people’s strength to live without the guarantees of success.”
So, in the coming year, what risk will you take?
CHAG CHANUKKAH SEMACH!