Feeling God’s spirit during Hanukkah


One of the most important values celebrated during the Hanukkah holiday is captured in a passage near the end of the haftorah that we read in synagogue on the Saturday morning of the holiday. It is a verse from the third chapter of the Biblical book of Zachariah that explains the symbolism of the lampstand that Zachariah sees in a vision: “Not by might or by power, but through My spirit — said the Lord of Hosts.”

I think the passage was selected by tradition for the prophetic reading on Hanukkah for two reasons: First, the lampstand in Zachariah’s vision is easily associated with the Temple menorah that was rekindled by the Maccabees following their victory over the Syrian Greeks. It is this act of rededication that we recall each night as we light our own Hanukkah candles.

Secondly, reading this verse in the context of Hanukkah suggests that the stunning victory that the Maccabees achieved over the most powerful empire of their day wasn’t a triumph of military might. Rather, it was a demonstration of the power of God’s spirit.

God’s spirit continues to work in our world to this day. One place that we can all see it, feel it and share in its power, is by taking part in the enormous relief effort which has been ongoing in Sandy’s wake. It is extraordinary how many people have been moved by this disaster to contribute their time and financial resources to aid those who have been stricken. It is clear to me that in our collective efforts to help those who were afflicted by the storm, we have been manifesting God’s spirit.

As the Hanukkah lights increase in number and grow brighter night by night; I pray that all who have survived the storm will find that their lives are lighter, easier and more joyous with each passing day.