This week, on the eighth day of Hanukkah, I attended two simchas (joyous celebrations) — a bat mitzvah and a wedding of close friends’ daughters. I was filled with the sense of possibility and hope, singing and dancing with a future generation that’s already so deeply connected to the community and tradition.
The father of the bat mitzvah girl shared a beautiful teaching that resonated with me as I look back on 2022 and reflect on the power of our community. According to the traditional Hanukkah liturgy, after their miraculous military victory, the Maccabees rededicated the Temple and designated these eight days l’hodot u’l’hallel (giving thanks and praise). A Hasidic master and torah commentator asked: What is the difference between hallel (praise), which connotes celebratory gratitude, and hoda’ah (gratitude), which means giving thanks? He answered that hallel appreciates things that are significant, public, and obviously wondrous. Hoda’ah, however, is the capacity to see and express gratitude for things that are smaller and harder to notice.
While it's important to feel gratitude for the significant wonders in our lives, Judaism, like many spiritual traditions, also challenges us to open our eyes to small wonders. We are encouraged to see and appreciate goodness and blessings in our lives and our world. It’s not coincidental that the word for Jew comes from our ancestor, Yehuda, who was named for this same word, hoda’aha, making Yehudim the gratitude people.
One of the ways we can express gratitude is giving back however we’re able. As I look back on 2022, I feel grateful for the big wonders, like the privilege of leading CJP and serving our community. I see firsthand the extraordinary ways that our community steps up and responds in the face of crisis after crisis, including our fight against Jew hate in this country. The magnitude of your generosity is overwhelming.
I also find inspiration every day in small wonders — a PJ Library family reading their first Jewish book together; a synagogue community celebrating the bar mitzvah of one of its oldest members; a new immigrant getting their first job after training with Jewish Vocational Service; a Jewish day school student learning the Hebrew aleph-bet; a young adult making their first gift to the CJP Annual Campaign, which supports these organizations and so many more.
Despite how broken our world can feel, there is still so much good happening in our community and so much to be grateful for. Thank you for the unique ways each of you contributes to shaping the character of our community and building our future. Together, we truly are making a bigger difference here at home, in Israel and around the Jewish world.
Wishing you and your families a Shabbat Shalom and a happy 2023,
Rabbi Marc Baker
P.S. If you have seen the power of this community and the work that CJP does every day — thanks to your support and partnership — please consider making a year-end gift to our Annual Campaign. Your gift goes to fighting antisemitism, nurturing the next generation, supporting the Jewish people in Israel and around the globe, and more.