I know, I know, I celebrated Chanukkah? I went to synagogue?
Life can be weird sometimes!
If you recall from my last post, my mother’s neighbor’s son, David, happened to also be in Yangon, and he’s Jewish and wanted to celebrate Chanukkah. He and his friends had stopped by the synagogue and asked if there were any services, and there were! He forward me the information, and I figured… why not?!
I’ve done stranger things, honestly.
The ceremony wasn’t an actual service, but instead it was a “Candle Lighting Ceremony” — so it didn’t sound TOO religious, so I figured I could handle it.
I arrived *right* in the nick of time (I got there at 7, when it had an advertised 6:30pm start time, but I SWEAR I ran. Literally ran.), just as everything was beginning. Apparently this is the COOLEST temple ever, because as soon as I settled into the seat David had saved me, a waitress walked by and asked if I wanted red wine, white wine, or water to drink during the ceremony.
Um…WHITE THANK YOU! SWEET!
Wine obtained, I turned my attention to the ceremony, where the local Rabbi began by thanking everyone for coming and doing a brief introduction to the program for the evening. He then yielded the floor to a visiting Rabbi from the United States, who presented a short speech on the meaning of Chanukkah, past and present, which was really nice… except for his strange choice of demonstrating the eight-night oil by dumping glasses of water on the floor.
We lasted through that portion and then the local Rabbi came back up to the bima for the candle lighting. He called up several prestigious community members, including the American Ambassador, Canadian Ambassador, and Israeli Ambassador (I KNOW! So cool!), to stand with him during prayers.
And now… my favorite part!
The Rabbi started the prayer portion, and it was *all* the song versions… Basically the ONLY part of temple I have ever really enjoyed. (True story, I got through Bat Mitzvah training by telling myself it was choir practice every time I had to go to temple… which was a LOT.) Somehow I’m a Soprano when it comes to Hebrew, so I always enjoy singing in synagogue… so I did my thing for like ten minutes, then the Rabbi and his guests lit the candles, and then…. EVERYONE WHIPPED OUT THEIR CAMERAS AND STARTED TAKING PHOTOS.
It was one of the strangest synagogue experiences I’ve ever had…but I figured… when in Rome… So I took a few myself!
After the photo-sesh, the Chanukkah buffet was opened up (catered by local restaurant Monsoon– it was delicious!) and we tucked in for a nice, celebratory dinner.
Horray for the Maccabees!