Hanukkah is time for reflection, rededication

Rabbi Elazar Grunberger

BY RABBI ELAZAR GRUNBERGER

Mizmor Shir Chanukas Habayis l’Dovid, a song for the Rededication of the House of David, is Psalm 30 which we say every morning as the introductory Psalm before starting our morning service. It’s also the Psalm we conclude our services with on each day of Hanukkah.

Have you ever noticed the content of this Psalm? King David starts this song for the inauguration of the Temple, just as the first verse states, and then he focuses on himself and gives thanks to God for healing him, for saving him, for being with him and supporting him in difficult times. The Psalm concludes, “So that my soul might make music to You and not be stilled, Hashem my God, forever will I thank You”.

What does this have to do with the dedication of the Temple?

How can we find relevance from the message of this Psalm to our practical lives today?

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It’s one of the basic values of the times and our upbringing that one day we should own our own home. It’s up on the list of being an adult, particularly when married, to be a home owner. Putting away money for that down payment is not uncommon and owning one’s own home gives a sense of stability and permanence.

A house is only a structure, the physical framework; what’s most important is what kind of home it will be. What values and morals, emotional and psychological stability, will fill the home?

King David starts his psalm regarding the inauguration of the Temple, the building, but then focuses on himself and all that the Almighty has done for him. He gives recognition to Hashem for all his successes and accomplishments and acknowledges that all healing and blessings came directly from God.

King David is addressing the basic attitudes and philosophy of life that are essential for the house, any house, to endure. He’s addressing the essence of the house, the essence of who we are as Jews, each of us with a neshama (soul) housed in a temporal body.

In order to truly dedicate the Holy Temple, King David is teaching us that we first need to build from the inside out. He was able to endure so many challenges, trials, tribulations, and accusations, only because he was grounded with proper Torah perspectives of who he was, why he was put in this world, and how life works. This is the essence of Jewish education. This is the most effective insurance for Jewish continuity. He knew this was the best insurance for the Temple in Jerusalem to survive. In fact it didn’t survive and was destroyed precisely because of our spiritual and moral decline.

Why was this Psalm selected to be the introductory psalm to begin our services every morning? And why was it selected to conclude our morning services each of the eight days of Hanukkah?

Prayer is about our relationship with God knowing that the ultimate meaning and pleasure in life is to be connected to God and to live with this reality 24/7. Prayer is a time to reflect and ask for our needs. It’s a time to ask for what’s really important and praise God for all our blessings.

King David did it so well. It was so real to him and he shares it with us through his psalms. How appropriate it is to begin our prayers each morning with Psalm 30 which reminds us of these fundamental truths as King David describes them so eloquently amidst his personal experiences.

Jewish Holidays aren’t just about commemorating what happened once upon a time and observing specific traditions related to the holiday. If Hanukkah is only about spinning dreidels and eating latkes and jelly doughnuts, we are missing the point. Hanukkah is the time we celebrate the miracles that God performed for us. It truly is a deep spiritual holiday rich with meaning and practical lessons about building our inner selves. It’s an auspicious time for us to work on the themes of Hanukkah and incorporate the lessons into our lives.

At the end of services each morning of Hanukkah we remind ourselves through the words of King David how he was inspired, supported, healed, and nourished directly by God. So too we can use these holy days to enhance our relationship with God with deep understanding that God is in full control.

Hanukkah is a celebration that God did miracles for us then when we demonstrated self sacrifice for Judaism and the commitment to living a Jewish lifestyle. He will do miracles for us today too if we merit.

May we all have an inspiring Hanukkah taking full advantage of all the blessings and power that these eight days of miracles have to offer us.

Local commentary

Rabbi Elazar Grunberger serves U. City Shul (Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Sha’arei Chesed). Contact him at [email protected]