Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
The last night of Hanukkah is my favorite night because the Menorah is full of light. In a darkened room the lights glow in ways that we don’t often appreciate anymore. Today, we take light for granted. In Houston, the fourth largest city in America, the lights will always be on.
It’s a sign of the times, but it’s not the only sign. For decades in Houston, it’s been the trend for new homes and buildings to replace old ones barely 30-50 years-old. It’s part of the culture of the west to be on the cutting-edge and in synch with the pioneer spirit. Houston epitomizes it, but if we embrace only our pioneer spirit, we might fail to appreciate our heritage bound up in the enduring elements of bricks and mortar.
As Jews, we’ve always preserved the past so that we might learn from it. Those lessons never foretold the future; rather they prepared us for it. Respect for the past and lessons for the future permit us access to our heritage and our modernity. For us, past and future are not too difficult to find. Today, we have only to travel to Israel. In 14 hours, we can be in one place that is past, present and future.
In Israel, we see remnants of ancient towns and the roots of Biblical events. We visit the tunnels along the Western Wall that take us back to the time of Hillel. We see the remains of the wars of independence and struggle. We see the centers of industry that make Israel a critical leader in technology in the world, today. We see holy religious sites of other world religions. We see that Israel is a vibrant place where Jewish life is truly thriving, and we see the work that still needs to be done.
On May 29-June 7, 2016, my wife, Lisa, and I will lead our next Congregation Beth Israel trip to Israel. It’s not too late to set your calendar and join many others who have already signed up. We generally are a group of less than 50. Registration and an itinerary can be found at www.beth-israel.org. It will be a full experience from north to south, and east to west. It will be political, religious, social, technological, and cultural. Our goals are many, but primarily it is to inspire you as we explore where we are and who we are in this modern, ancient, western, Middle Eastern, democratic, Jewish, and culturally diverse land. This is not a vacation like you’ve spent anywhere else. This is a trip of a lifetime.
The lights that burn in Israel’s city centers have been burning for thousands of years. They tell stories that are part of our heritage and they light the way for stories yet untold. Between the lights there is still darkness unlike any other anywhere else. It’s a darkness that awaits light and seeks illumination. It’s a light that’s kindled with each new insight we gain from inspired learning and shared experiences in the Land of Israel. It’s a light that’s waiting for us to reveal it. When we return from Israel, we’ll become ambassadors who shed new light on ideas and hopes for Israel and the Jewish people. Next Year in Jerusalem.
Best wishes to you and yours for a prosperous and healthy 2016. May you and I and all who are touched by our lives find blessing in the presence of the Source of blessing.