In speaking of Chanukah, the Talmud directs us to “advertise the miracle.” What generations of Jews have taken from that is, not to emphasize the military victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, but the miracle of the lights that followed. When the Jews re-entered their temple and destroyed the statues of Greek gods, they needed to reconsecrate the temple by lighting the holy lamp. This had to be done with pure olive oil, and there was only enough oil for one night. They lit the lamp and began to prepare more oil for the lamp – a process which would take eight days. Then a great miracle happened. The tiny amount of oil continued to burn for eight days, until the new oil was ready to be added to the lamp. So now we gather to light eight candles, one each day for eight days.
And this year there was another miracle for the Reconstructionist Congregation of Detroit. We are in the midst of providing assistance to a Syrian refugee family of eight: two grandparents, the mother and father and aunt, and three children, aging from 14 to 6. We are partners with Christ Church Detroit, through Samaritas (formerly Lutheran Social Services). We provide financial assistance, used clothing and furnishings, and rides to the grocery store. And we help in unexpected ways. In early December, the women in the family asked us if anyone might have a meatgrinder to give them, so that they could make their traditional meat dishes. I knew I had one in my kitchen storage, one that my mother used to make stuffed grape leaves and meat pies (which my mother-in-law would call kreplach). I found it and marveled at how old and lovely it is, with its worn wooden handle. See the picture. I wondered if I should give it up. My mother, who is long deceased, would be delighted to have her meatgrinder find its way to a needy family. But would my two sisters feel all right about giving up this link to Mom? I emailed them both, saying, “Would it be okay with you if I give Mom’s meatgrinder to our Syrian refugee family?” My sister Marian responded quickly: “Wait. I thought that I had Mom’s meatgrinder. I have one here in my kitchen. I’m looking at it now.” Then our sister Peggy responded: “Wait. I thought that I had Mom’s meatgrinder and Grandma’s as well. I have two here in my kitchen. I’ll send one to you.” In all, there were four of them, all lovely antiques and all having found their way from older relatives into our kitchens. So we could gladly give one meatgrinder to our Syrian family and still each sister would have one from, perhaps Mom, perhaps an aunt or grandmother. It didn’t matter. It was a miracle. They were all lovely and all useful. They were all links to older generations of Americans, reaching out to new Americans.