Dis­pelling the dark­ness

Faith lead­ers dis­cuss co­in­cid­ing ob­ser­vances

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CON­NIE CONNOLLY [email protected]­pub.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @con­nie_s­tar­dem.

EAS­TON — It’s just a small ges­ture, re­ally. A tiny flame atop a pil­lar of wax in same cases, a flick of a switch in oth­ers.

But those small ges­tures, mul­ti­plied, carry the freight of cen­turies of mean­ing and mir­a­cles — of the ful­fill­ment of his­tory, of the strug­gle for free­dom, of the yearn­ing for last­ing peace.

To­day marks the con­flu­ence of two great re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tions: the first day of Hanukkah for Jews and the first Sun­day of Ad­vent for Chris­tians.

In Eas­ton, those two faith tra­di­tions co­in­cide on Sun­day, Dec. 2. Rabbi Peter Hy­man of Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael and the Rev. James Nash of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church met re­cently to share cof fee and friend­ship as they talked about the his­tory and mean­ing of the re­li­gious sea­sons.

The two men work from their houses of wor­ship on op­po­site sides of the Eas­ton Park­way in south Eas­ton. Hy­man jokes that if the small Mid-Shore Mus­lim com­mu­nity builds a mosque, he’d like to see it on the lot for sale next to the syn­a­gogue.

It’s this kind of ca­ma­raderie that char­ac­ter­izes the dis­cus­sion about light­ing can­dles against the dark­ness.

Hy­man said it’s the job of clergy to ex­plain the mean­ing of the re­li­gious sea­sons even as Wall Street uses images of Christ­mas trees, Jewish meno­rahs and Kwan­zaa ki­naras to sell prod­ucts.

“It’s my job to ex­plain to the mem­bers of Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael, and who­ever else comes, that Hanukkah is re­ally the hol­i­day of re­li­gious free­dom,” Hy­man said. “It fo­cuses on ma­jor is­sues that we wres­tle with to­day.

“The story of the Mac­cabees is both in­ter­est­ing but his­tor­i­cally in­for­ma­tive,” Hy­man said. Jewish his­tory and ideals are ex­em­pli­fied in “the strug­gle of — not just the Mac­cabees for the Jews — but the whole no­tion of to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism ver­sus uni­ver­sal­ism.”

“If you an­a­lyze the lit­er­a­ture from that time, the Greek Syr­i­ans, while they pre­sented a no­tion of uni­ver­sal­ism, it wasn’t. It was, ‘You do it our way and ev­ery­thing’s fine. If you don’t, then you have trou­ble.’ That’s to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism,” Hy­man said. “And the whole no­tion of re­li­gious free­dom con­flicts with that. That’s as mod­ern a re­al­ity as we can have.”

“Ad­vent is more the­o­log­i­cal, but it is about the de­feat of dark­ness,” Nash said.

The in­ter­val be­tween the Je­sus’ first ad­vent and his sec­ond com­ing, or ad­vent, means that there’s “there’s plenty of dark­ness out there,” Nash said. “Dark­ness has been de­feated in the death and res­ur­rec­tion of Christ, that’s true, but (the Chris­tian faith) is about bring­ing about the king­dom (of God). It’s about mak­ing that hap­pen, and we’re still a part of that. Th­ese mo­ments help us be rein­vig­o­rated to do that.”

“When we do work to bring about the king­dom, then we do need to be concerned about the poor and the less for­tu­nate and those who are un­der to­tal­i­tar­ian con­trol and those who are si­lenced be­cause their opin­ion doesn’t mat­ter,” Nash said.

“And that’s what we’re try­ing to preach on week­ends,” Nash said. “We’re not try­ing to preach a feel­good Gospel. It’s hard some­times here.”

Hy­man agreed. “It’s a bless­ing and a curse,” he said. “We’re for­tu­nate to live in a com­mu­nity that’s em­brac­ing and wel­com­ing, sup­port­ive, in­volved, so it may be in­ap­pro­pri­ate or un­nec­es­sary to do fire-and-brim­stone ser­mons.”

“It’s re­ally about get­ting the mes­sage across in a way that peo­ple can hear it,” Nash said.

Fol­low­ing two re­cent wellat­tended in­ter­faith ser­vices at the syn­a­gogue, Hy­man and the con­gre­ga­tion will hold a com­mu­nity Chanukah meno­rah light­ing ser­vice on Thurs­day, Dec. 6 (see re­lated ar­ti­cle). Nash plans to at­tend.

“The more Fa­ther Nash and my­self and other col­leagues can be wel­com­ing to the gen­eral com­mu­nity, the more we can de­mys­tify who we are and what we do, the more we can show the sim­i­lar­i­ties that are housed by our dis­tinc­tive­ness, the bet­ter off we are,” Hy­man said.

“I love that. I’m go­ing to steal that,” said Nash, smil­ing, as Hy­man re­sponded, “Please do.”

“On the out­side, we’re dis­tinct — we have dif­fer­ent ways of see­ing the world, dif­fer­ent ways of get­ting there. But when the rub­ber hits the road, we’re much more sim­i­lar,” Nash said.

One of those com­mon­al­i­ties was ex­pressed in il­lu­mi­nated cal­ligraphed He­brew scrip­ture of Proverbs 3:18 given by Nash to Hy­man when the new Tem­ple was ded­i­cated.

Un­be­knownst to Nash, he gave Hy­man, an ac­com­plished cal­lig­ra­pher, the same He­brew scrip­ture that is carved in the front of the wooden bimah, or plat­form from which the To­rah is read.

Proverbs 3:18 states “(Wis­dom) is a tree of life to those who grasp her, and who­ever holds on to her is happy.”

“I thought, how cool,” Hy­man said.

“You should have seen the look on his face,” Nash said. “I thought, it’s nice but it’s not that nice. I mean, it’s not gold or any­thing — it kind of gave me chills.”

“He’s a real men­sch,” Hy­man said.

PHOTO BY ALAN MICK­EL­SON

The meno­rah cel­e­brat­ing the Jewish Fes­ti­val of Lights is il­lu­mi­nated by mem­bers of the com­mu­nity in dur­ing Hanukkah 2017 at the for­mer home of Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael in Eas­ton.

PHOTO BY CON­NIE CONNOLLY

Rabbi Peter Hy­man, right, of Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael, reads the il­lu­mi­nated and cal­ligraphed He­brew scrip­ture the Rev. James Nash of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church gave his neigh­bor and friend when the new syn­a­gogue was ded­i­cated.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Pat and Mike Vaz­zana light a can­dle for the first of the four Sun­days of Ad­vent at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Eas­ton.

PHOTO BY CON­NIE CONNOLLY

Hav­ing just re­turned from Is­rael, the Rev. James Nash of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, left, dis­cusses his trip and sur­veys the por­tico of the new Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael with Rabbi Peter Hy­man, who was a rab­bini­cal stu­dent there 45 years ago.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.