December is literally the darkest month of the year, with sunset starting just after 5:00PM each day. The celebration of Hanukkah, the festival of lights, which begins on December 16, 2014 stands in sharp contrast to the darkness of our winter months.
Hanukkah itself is not mentioned anywhere in the Torah so the earliest accounts of its celebration comes from the Talmud. The Talmud even asks Mai Hanukkah, or what is Hanukkah? The answer is “…Eight days of celebration on which mourning and fasting are prohibited. Because when the Hellenists entered the sanctuary, they defiled all the oil that was found there. When the Maccabees triumphed, they looked for oil to light the Eternal Flame, and only found one container with the seal of the high priest intact. The vial contained enough oil for only one day, but a miracle occurred, and they were able to keep it lit for eight days from that container...” (Shabbat 21b).
"Today I completed a challenge that I never thought possible. Today is Labor Day, Monday, Sept 1, 2014, and I competed in, and finished, my first triathlon."
-- Rabbi Jill Levy
This may not seem like such a huge accomplishment for those who are "fitness people," but I have never been particularly skilled in the sports and fitness department. However, there was something driving me to train for and to participate in this event. Since I work at the J, where we have an amazing fitness center, trainers and two pools, I knew I had the resources, I just had to use them.
After 12 weeks of training I received my race number and stood at the bank of the lake ready to enter the water at the start of the race. At that point, I asked two of my friends if they would say the shecheyanu blessing (Blessed are You, God, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season) with me, my way of praising and thanking God for the ability to reach this moment in my life. It was not until I was on the bike that I realized I had a choice. I could have said the blessing at the race finish instead of at the beginning.
In that moment, I realized...