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Hanukkah’s message: We are mentors of the mitzvot

NOVEMBER 29, 2018 – I can recall a time many years ago when I had made an appointment with a car dealership in order to purchase a new vehicle. While it was the closest dealership that sold the make and model SUV that I wanted, the dealer had a reputation for having immaculate polished floors, exquisite chandeliers, and expert salespeople who would make the usually difficult car buying experience as pleasant as possible.

I recall and will never forget that I arrived on time, opened the glass doors to the showroom, and walked in. The shiny cars on the floor were very impressive to me. I can also recall that something very important was amiss. What was wrong was what was missing. I recall wondering to myself, “Where are the other customers, salespeople, or even a receptionist?” The door clearly said the dealership was open, but here I was, all alone. Even though the model I wanted was nowhere to be seen, it was fun looking at the various vehicles that were on display.

Finally, I heard footsteps. Happy to finally see someone, I reached out my hand. The person ignored my hand and said, “I’m sorry but we are having a sales meeting right now. Can you come back later?” Had this been a dollar store, that would have been fine, but this was a high-priced, luxury automobile dealership and I had an appointment.

While I said nothing, I left and gave the SUV order to a different dealership, one that understood the value of the individual. Because this first dealership put themselves first, they lost me as a customer and as a good reference. If the gentleman had shaken my hand and said something like, “Welcome. Please have a seat and someone will be with you shortly. Would you like a cup of coffee?” I would have been happy to have stayed.

As Jews, we are a “Kingdom of Priests.” Whatever we do, wherever we go, everyone looks at us and judges all Jews by our individual behavior. Maybe we are not selling anything, but the way we live as mentors of the mitzvot drives how we are judged.

Hanukkah is almost here. This is a festive occasion set aside for us to celebrate in our homes with our families and friends. We are not to put Hanukkah on display, since its purpose is to remind each of us that we are to rededicate our inner selves to our G-d and to Judaism. We are to light a personal spiritual fire deep inside; a spiritual fire that shines through and warms everyone with whom we interact.

Unlike the dealership that featured its immaculate polished floors, exquisite chandeliers, and a reputation it could not live up to, Hanukkah reminds us of our personal responsibility to live as mentors of the mitzvot in whatever we do, wherever we go.

Our community is a shining light. Sadly, we have recently been forced to come together to mourn the loss of lives taken by hate in Pennsylvania, in California, and in other areas. My prayer is that we, as a people, will continue to lead by example and show the world – Lo yisa goy el goy cherev. Lo yilmedu od milchama … Nation shall not lift sword against nation. Let them never learn the ways of war (or hate) again (Isaiah 2:4).
What a beautiful prayer for a Hanukkah Miracle, a miracle of Shalom for all. Let us shine the light, be considerate of others, and unite as one.
From our house to your house, have a Happy Hanukkah.

Rabbi Richard Perlman is the spiritual leader of Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody.

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