Philadelphia, PA – The season of Hanukkah may be long past for most of us, but at Congregation Beth Yeshua in Philadelphia the holiday has lasted far longer. This weekend, Rabbi David Chernoff delivered the final installment of a Hanukkah a message series based on a mere half page of notes that seemed as though it would barely last for a single service.
“It truly is a Hanukkah miracle,” said Rabbi David. “I searched through the Word of God for hours, looking for a new message to give during the Hanukkah service. In the end, I was only able to come up with about half a page of notes. I would have considered myself incredibly blessed if I’d been able to make it last 10 minutes, but here we are eight weeks later and I only reached the end this weekend.
The message started out as a rather typical sermon, focused on dedicating your life to the Lord. But a couple of minutes in, witnesses say, something truly remarkable happened. “Shortly after he started,” recalled long-time congregation member Nate Yesner, “he decided to tell a story about a personal experience that vaguely related to the topic at hand. It seemed like a pretty standard Rabbi David tangent at first –- we usually get one or two of them per service. But then, as he was telling the story, it started reminding him of other aspects he wanted to talk about, which led to another tangent, which led to more new elements to the message. He must have run at least 20 minutes late, and he still hadn’t even gotten to the first point on his notes.”
At the end of the service, the Rabbi promised to conclude the message the following week. However, by the time the next Shabbat arrived he had supplemented the scant half page of initial notes with five full pages of addenda, and it quickly became clear that it would take far more than a single service to wrap things up. By the time the message series finally grew to a close this weekend, the annotations had expanded to more than a dozen pages.
“It really is amazing,” said Rabbi David. “To be perfectly honest, I was pretty much running on empty in terms of message ideas. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do after the Hanukkah message. But God took a tiny amount of material, only enough for a single service, and made it last for eight full services until new message ideas could be produced. Even this past weekend, when it looked like I was going to come up a little short with the remaining Hanukkah material, The Lord provided an Eagles Super Bowl victory that I was able to tie in to fill the rest of the time.”
As for what he expects to do for messages now that the series is finally over, Rabbi David says he has a few ideas. “Once I saw that this message was finally wrapping up I started brainstorming, and I think I’ve got a few viable concepts. For now, though, it’s been a while since I spent a service updating everyone on the status of the new building. After that it’ll be time for a Purim message, and if that goes anything like Hanukkah I can ride it straight into Passover.”
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