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December 2017 - Message from the Rabbi

rabbi gary mazoShalom!

Another year has flown by and we are ready once again to celebrate the Winter holidays and usher in a new secular year. That means Chanukah is right around the corner. We light the first candle on Tuesday night, December 12th and our Temple Chanukah celebration will take place on Sunday, December 17th. Details are in this bulletin.

Our holidays are not meant to be empty memorials of historical events. Our attitude is that we are living in the days that the miracles happened, albeit many years hence. The Greeks had conquered stronger nations before turning their attention to the Jews. They rose to the highest heights only to be humbled by a nation militarily inferior to them. They sought to extinguish the light of Torah, and not only did they fail, but through them a new holiday was established. Chanukah commemorates our eternal hold to Torah.

So, our challenge today is to put more of Judaism and Jewish values into our celebration of Chanukah. To that aim, I would like to suggest something I did for my kids when they were young. My kids would receive gifts for Purim (the traditional Jewish gift giving day) but they certainly also received gifts from grandparents, other relatives an friends during Chanukah. We let them open their gifts each night...except for the 8th night of Chanukah. On that night, we tried to teach the kids that it was time to give back. We would either take them shopping - and they would spend their own money – to buy clothes and essentials for kids in need. That was also a night to either volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen or make some other sort of charitable contribution.

We always wonder if the lessons we teach our kids stick or not. I could not have been more proud then to read that our youngest daughter, Sara (who is serving in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia) has decided to revive this ͞8th night͟ tradition for her service. Sara posted this on Facebook (which is where all parents learn about their kids these days:)

͞One of my projects in December is a campaign called "I Believe in Santa Claus". As 99% of the country is Georgian Orthodox, Christmas is celebrated here Jan 7th and it is a very big deal across the country.

In 2015, my organization founded the program. The aim of the campaign is to reach the most socially vulnerable children and to make their holiday wishes come true. In 2015, Believe Foundation invited 30 children to write wish letters to Santa Claus. Last year, they supported over 100 socially vulnerable and disabled children living in the greater Poti community.

This year we hope to continue to build the capacity of our program to increase the number of beneficiaries.

This type of projects reminds me how every year on the 8th night of Hanukkah I try to give back in some way instead of receiving presents.


Gary A. Mazo, Rabbi