First, Chanuka is certainly one of the most popular Jewish holidays. However, a disproportionately few number of people know what the name of the holiday really means. Chanukah corresponded to the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by Antiochus and his troops in his wars with the Maccabees.
The word "Chanuka" means "dedication" and is based on the Hebrew root: "chet, nun, kof." The Hebrew word for "education," chinuch, is based on the same Hebrew root, so I would not be drifting too far a field in suggesting that education, dedication and yes, Chanuka are all related.
The second piece of the puzzle comes from Pir-kei A-vot which states "im ein ke-mach ein To-rah. Where there is no flour, there is no Torah." Flour is seen as the basic ingredient of food (interpreted to mean money) is necessary to support education.
A third aspect of Chanuka is the concept of Chanuka gelt, gifts of money to the poor (or by extension to charitable institutions such as the temple) to support our mission to educate ourselves and the next generation. To be sure we work hard at it but we, as a congregation, are subsidized to a large extent by our teaching staff: most work for stipends rather than salaries.
And the last piece of the puzzle comes courtesy of the IRS. Donations (i.e. Chanuka gelt) gifted to Betenu before January 1, 2008 will yield you a "returned gift" from the IRS when you fill out your taxes next spring.
There is an old joke about a new group moving to the east side of town who want to start a new synagogue. Not knowing how to go about it, they decide to ask the people who run the synagogue on the west side of town. The easterner asks, "How do you start a synagogue?" The westerner responds, "The first thing you need is a deficit!" If the westerner's reply is accurate, we at Betenu are surely successful!
From Karen and me, best wishes to you all for a Happy Chanuka and a healthy and prosperous 2008.
Joshua L. Segal
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