NIGHT PRAYER: Thursday 12/7

NIGHT PRAYER: Thursday 12/7

The celebration of Hanukkah begins at sundown today.

Hanukkah — the eight-day festival of light that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah, they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Hanukkah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Hanukkah, when all eight lights are kindled. On Hanukkah we also recite Hallel and the Al HaNissim prayer to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for « delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few… the wicked into the hands of the righteous. »

Hanukkah customs include eating foods fried in oil — latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, « a great miracle happened there »); and the giving of Hanukkah gelt, gifts of money, to children.

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Our Jewish friends and neighbors (indeed, all peoples)
pray with hearts burdened by the tragic news that comes daily from Israel.  In the prayer below, my friend, Alden Solovy, casts Hanukkah as a season of dedication – a holy and hope filled image for prayer in these sad times…  

This is the season of dedication: 
Of dedicating our moments and our lives,
Of dedicating our hope and our strength,
To live by G-d’s Word.

This is the season of cleansing:
Of cleansing our hearts and our sanctuaries,
Of cleansing our deeds and our ways,
Creating sacred time and space.

This is the season of service:
Of service to our neighbors and community,
Of service to K’lal Yisrael,*
In the name of justice and peace.

This is the season of dedication:
Of dedication to strength and honor,
Righteousness and duty.
This is the season that calls forth miracles,
That summons the light of holiness,
The season the reminds us to rebuild and restore
Our commitment to mitzvot and avodah**
In G-d’s holy name.

© Alden Solovy

 *K’lal Yisrael means the whole of the Jewish people

**Mitzvot refers to the 613 commandments in the Hebrew scriptures;
 Avodah refers to the command to worship and serve God.
 Night Prayer
Change our hearts, Lord!
Rededicate our hands to the work of justice,
   and a harvest of peace…
Fill us with your Spirit
    and give us the wisdom we need
        to put an end to war and bloodshed…
Give us a season to learn again,
    to rededicate ourselves to your word, your law,
        your service and your worship…
Protect us, Lord, while we’re awake
   and watch over us while we sleep
that awake, we might keep watch with you
   and asleep, rest in your peace…

Lighting and Blessing the Menorah  by Suze Weinberg

(The transliterated Hebrew and English lyrics follow the video)

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Ba-ruch ata, A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu, me-lech ha-o-lam, 

a-sher ki-de-sha-nu be-mits-vo tov, 
ve-tsi-va-nu le-had-lik neir shel Han-nu-kah.

Blessed is Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, 

by whose mitzvot we are sanctified   

and who commands us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah

Ba-ruch ata, A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu, me-lech ha-o-lam,
she-a-sa ni-sim las-a-vo-tei-nu 

ba-ya-mim ha-heim ba-ze-man ha-zah.

Blessed is Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe,  

who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors 

in days of old, at this season. 

Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech ha-olam

he-heche-ya-nu ve-ki-yi-ma-nu  

ve-higi-a-nu liz-man ha-zeh. 

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe.

who has granted us life, sustained us,

and enabled us to reach this occasion.