Hanukkah: Light in the Shadows

November 29, 2023

Hanukkah: Light in the Shadows

A Meditation on Hanukkah 2023

By Rabbi Judith Beiner

Many faith traditions, including Judaism, use light as a metaphor for goodness with darkness symbolizing the opposite, evil. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Laidi, one of our great Hasidic teachers taught: A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness. Our celebration of Hanukkah includes the kindling of the Hanukiah, whose lights are a reminder of our potential to spread infinite goodness in our world, and to find ways to increase light and banish the darkness.

In the Hanukah story, when the Macabees regained control of the holy Temple from the Greeks, they found only enough oil to keep the lights burning for one day. And yet, a miracle occurred, and the oil lasted for 8 days. Judaism dictates that Hanukkah lights come with specific instructions and interpretations. The Hanukiah, aka Menorah, must have places for 9 candles – 8 for each of the nights and 1 the shamash/servant that lights all the others. We add light to the Hanukkiah one candle at a time, one for each night. We are to wait until it is dark outside before we light the candles, and tradition holds that while the flames are burning, we’re not to do any work. It is also customary to put the Hanukiah in the window so as to publicize the miracle (pirsum hanes).

This year’s Hanukah celebrations will occur in the shadow of the war in Israel and increasing anti-semitic activities around the world. It is a time of stress, sadness and fear. When we light our Hanukiah, we express the pride we have in our Jewish faith and heritage, and in the gifts our people bring to the world. Additionally, The Macabee’s military victory over the Greeks reminds us of the importance of Jewish strength and power to be used when needed to defend our land, our people and our way of life.

May the lights of Hanukkah inspire us to bring goodness to the world, together with hopes and dreams for peace, prosperity and goodwill in the coming year.

(for a little more ‘lit’ inspiration, click on this link)

Peter, Paul and Mary - Light One Candle (25th Anniversary Concert) - YouTube