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Archive for December 12th, 2009

Consecutive Days Riding: 63                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 64

Today’s Mileage: 7                                             Total Trip Mileage: 552

The red line marks our progress!

Holidays and Holy Days on December 12:

HanukkahJewish Festival of Lights. It commemorates the Maccabean recapture and      rededication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165-164 b.c.e. Special readings and praise songs focus on liberty and freedom. The eight candle Menorah is lighted

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A Blazing Menorah.

As I climb on the bike this morning I would like to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah! Today marks the first of eight days in this sacred Jewish Festival of Lights. We will for the next several days be following the coast north towards the Tampa/Saint Petersburg area.  As cold winter weather sweeps over much of the nation, the idea of riding along sunny warm beaches is a comforting thought.

I’ve been thinking about Hanukkah celebrations and my discussion yesterday concerning whether to take a buffet or a single entrée approach to defining individual spiritual beliefs.  Years ago, in my youth, this was not a question one wrestled with! If my memory serves me correctly, I believe it was actually a sin to visit a worship service of another denomination.  Visits to Native American ceremonies (Pow Wows) were seen as a “quaint and strange” other world, that apparently posed no threat to your monotheistic beliefs. The message was that comingling with other faiths whose churches dotted the community streets, could only lead to conflict and negative results.  Apparently these results included a contamination of the true message or an undermining of one’s foundation beliefs.  In some ways this approach made life easier. You didn’t have to consider different beliefs.  You just followed the prescribed path.  However, as I got older and travelled more, I wanted to make more sense of the diversity of cultures and spiritual beliefs I was encountering. I found it necessary to explore, encounter and sample these beliefs.

 

Dreides with letters that proclaim: "A great miracle happened there."

 I understand now the old saying: “How do you keep them down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paris?” In my case it would read: “How do you keep them believing in the farm, after they’ve experienced Bangkok?”

I found that while sampling other belief systems often points to many surface differences, to continue with the buffet analogy, these would be the use of different colors, textures and spices. There is a strong similarity between the emotions experienced and shared among the diners of these feasts. It is my experience, that whether one is attending a Jewish Hanukkah celebration, a Christian Christmas service, or a Wiccan Solstice gathering, the passions, the deep commitment, the sense of love and connectedness between family, friends, and the divine is more similar than different! The venues are decorated differently and the feast buffet offers some unique dishes, however the emotions are all uplifting and lead to a connectedness with others.

I know the story of Hanukkah, of the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, of the miracle of “one day’s worth” of oil lasting eight days. I understand the meaning of the menorah, like I understand the meaning of the Advent wreath in a Christian service, but understanding the meaning does not bring me closer to the celebrants.  It is the sharing of the emotions and the symbolism of the light that bring me closer to these strangers. Light that attests to our coming together with others in community…. Light that attests to an offering of thanks and gratitude…  Light that attests to the guidance and meaning we find in our beliefs.

 

Bring a community together!

As I mentioned yesterday, taking a “buffet approach” to spiritual beliefs carries some dangers, not the least of which is a superficiality that may substitute for deep rooted beliefs. However, I believe that one of the strengths of sampling the buffet is that you may come to realize that regardless of the culture of the dish, the spices enliven the  tongue, brings a smile to the face and points to a connect that we all share: a need for nourishment.

The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

 

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