“It is Wondrous in Our Eyes”
“Pitchu li Shaarei Tzedek; Avo Vam Odeh Yah.”
“Open for us the gates of righteousness; let us enter and give thanks to God! (Psalm 118)
These words of Hallel are sung throughout the Festival of Chanukah. The ancient Psalmist celebrated the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s Temple in his day, just as the Maccabees celebrated the rededication of that Temple in their day, just as we now celebrate the rebuilding of OUR Temple in OUR time.
“Zeh haSha’ar LAdonai!”
“This is the gateway to the Eternal One; the righteous shall enter it. We thank You, for You have answered us; You have become our deliverance.”
Tonight we enjoy the premier performance of Cantor Maissner’s original composition for the Psalm written for the occasion. Thanks to the generosity of our Temple Sisterhood and Temple Singers, the score will be arranged by Steven Glass and performed in its full grandeur when we open the doors to our new spaces.
The Hallel continues:
“The stone the builders once rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the work of the Eternal God; it is wondrous in our eyes.”
Our ancestors built something wondrous out of the rejected stone. Chanukah is also the celebration of how to create something wondrous, even miraculous. Only God can create something from nothing – Yesh me’Ayin. We, human beings, create Yesh miYesh — Something from something. And with God’s blessing, it can become something wondrous, too.
Lighting The First Candle
The first candle is my favourite candle. It is the candle that opens the door to a miracle. What was miraculous about the first candle? Nothing. The Maccabees knew the oil was enough for one day, so why do we recite the blessing for miracles on the first night? A medieval collection gives no less than one hundred answers to this question. One possible answer is that they lit the light anyway. Knowing it would only last for one day, they lit it anyway. They imagined: Who knows? Perhaps there will be a miracle. The miracle of first candle, therefore, is believing in the possibility of miracles. The first candle stands for the miracle of effort and faith combined; it stands for the human will and the Divine will combined.
When we put our energy, our koach, our collaboration and imagination, and a whole lot of hope into something worthy, it can be enough to open the door to a miracle. Tonight we celebrate just that.
For more than one hundred and sixty years, this has been the way for Holy Blossom Temple. It is this spirit that has earned us a shem tov, a good name. It is why I have been invited to light the Chanukiah tomorrow night with the Prime Minister on Parliament Hill. This invitation comes in recognition of the leading role Holy Blossom Temple has played in every era and continues to play in Jewish life and civic courage.
In just a moment, our new cornerstone will be revealed. On it you will see engraved the three sacred purposes of our sacred congregation. Any synagogue community must fulfill these three missions.
Our Beit Tefilliah, our House of Prayer, was dedicated in 1938 when this magnificent Sanctuary was built.
Our Beit Midrash, our House of Learning, was dedicated in 1960 when the school wing was built.
And soon our Beit K’nesset, our House of Gathering, will be dedicated in 2018, when our Atrium is complete.
It is now my honour to call Tom Friedland and the Renewal Project Steering Committee to the bimah, to gather around this cornerstone. The magnitude of the dedication and the commitment of this circle of leadership is beyond articulation. Our gratitude is immeasurable. It is thanks to their steadfast and tireless efforts that tonight we can celebrate a miracle in our own time.
Struck from the match of human will, illuminated by the brilliance of Divine Will, Jewish life in this good city will continue to radiate and shine for generations to come.
“Zah HaYom Asah Adonai. Nagilah v’Nism’cha Vo! This is the day that God has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”