Candle lighting time is 4:40
CONNECT THE DOTS
Today we are going to play a little holiday game of connect the dots. I am sure that at some time or another you have heard someone say, “Well, let’s connect the dots and we will see where that takes us.” Today we are going to connect the dots between some events that are happening right now and some events that happened a long, long time ago. Hopefully, when we finish our game we will all end up at the very same place.
So, what are the events? Well, in the order of history, they are the Torah, Passover, Chanukah, the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Thanksgiving (the American version), and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
And what do all of these have to do with a blog that this year is supposed to be about our Sabbath prayers?
Lets start with the Torah. It is eternal and it existed even before God presented it to our forefathers, so it came first.
Let’s move to Passover. The second book of the Torah is the book of Exodus, the book that tells of the release of our ancestors from their bondage in Egypt, their miraculous crossing through the Red Sea, and their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. And the story of this deliverance from slavery is recounted during the holiday of Passover (are you seeing a connection yet?).
Then there is Chanukah, a holiday that commemorates a battle for religious freedom from the tyrannical rule of Antiochus IV in the second century BCE, and includes the miracle of the Chanukah lights.
Next we move ahead to 1620, when a band of Pilgrims left England for America and a new homeland where they too could have freedom from religious persecution.
Fast forward again, this time to November 19, 1863, the American Civil War, and President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The Civil War was, of course, a war that helped to put an end to slavery in America, and the Gettysburg Address included the words, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
Sounds kind of like the Maccabees doesn’t it? The world has long remembered what they did there, and that, “A great miracle happened there.”
Next, we have the American Thanksgiving. A commemoration of the Pilgrims first Thanksgiving in 1621, the American Thanksgiving was declared a US holiday by that same President Lincoln, with the first official Thanksgiving to be celebrated on November 26, 1863.
Now we move to one of the most tragic days in American history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which happened on November 22, 1963, fifty years ago tomorrow. There has been much written about the many seeming coincidences (Judaism tells us that there are no coincidences) surrounding the lives and deaths of Lincoln and Kennedy. There are far too many for me to comment on here, but one thing that I do want to mention is that the Kennedy presidency was notable as an advancement of religious freedom in this country since Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected president, even as some people continued to make an issue of his religion and say intolerant things like, “If you elect Kennedy you might as well put the Pope himself in the White House.” Yes, we have come so very far in the area of religious and ethnic freedom in this country. We have had a Catholic president and now we have a black president. But when will we ever have a Jewish president?
And next week, in a once-in-a-forever happening, the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish calendar are experiencing a convergence of sorts, and for the first time ever we are celebrating Thanksgivukkah, as Chanukah and Thanksgiving take place on the very same day.
But what, if anything, does any of this have to do with our Shabbas prayers?
Well, the prayer I am referring to today is said every day during our morning services and it comes from the Torah itself; from the Book of Exodus, Chapter 15, Verses 1-18. It is the Song of the Sea, a song of thanksgiving, sung by the Children of Israel following the miraculous parting of the Sea that enabled them to complete their escape from slavery in Egypt, while ending the pursuit by Pharaoh’s army.
Here is the Song of the Sea, found on pages 330-331 of our Birnbaum siddurs.
Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord; they said: I will sing to the Lord, for he has completely triumphed; the horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, for he has come to my aid. This is my God, and I will glorify him; my father’s God, and I will extol him. The Lord is a warrior – Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has cast into the sea, and his picked captains are engulfed in the Red Sea. The depths cover them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Thy right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, thy right hand, O Lord, crushes the enemy. By thy great majesty thou destroyest thy opponents. Thou sendest forth thy wrath – it consumes them like stubble. By the blast of thy nostrils the waters piled up – the floods stood upright like a wall; the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said: “I will pursue them, I will overtake them, I will divide the spoil, my lust shall be glutted with them; I will draw my sword, my hand will destroy them.” Thou didst blow with thy wind – the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like thee among the mighty, O Lord? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, awe-inspiring in renown, doing marvels? Thou didst stretch out thy right hand – the earth swallowed them. In thy grace thou has led the people whom thou hast redeemed, by thy power thou hast guided them to thy holy habitation. The peoples have heard of it and trembled; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Then were the chieftans of Edom in agony; trembling hands seized the lords of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away. Terror and dread fell on them. Under the great sweep of thy arm they are still as stone, till thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people thou hast acquired pass over. Thou wilt bring them in and plant them in the highlands of thy own, the place which thou, O Lord, has made for thy dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. The Lord shall reign forever and ever. The Lord shall reign forever and ever.
Are the dots connected yet? Everything should be connected for you and, hopefully, you have arrived at the place where everything begins and ends, with Adonai, our one true and everlasting God.
South Hills Lights
Don’t forget South Hills Lights to be held at the Galleria on Washington Rd. on Sunday, December 1 beginning at 3 p.m. This community celebration will include Klezmer music, Chanukah doughnuts, and a raffle beginning at 3 near the fountain on the second level. Then, at 5, there will be a Grand Menorah Lighting and more. Fun for all ages and its free!