Chanukah is the Festival of Lights. During the darkest part of the year, we light candles for illumination and as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment. A famous Hebrew Chanukah song inspires us to send away the darkness from the light. Similarly, the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Jewish scrolls, describe an epic battle between light and darkness.
We are survivors of one of the darkest periods in modern human history. And yet, our holidays and their extraordinary messages purposely shed light on our predicament. Thanksgiving inspires us to remember those people and aspects of our lives for whom and for which we are grateful. The holidays that follow open our eyes to the light in the world, to hope for the future and to the promise of the fulfillment of prophecy and of redemption.
The lighting of the Chanukah menorah (candelabra) is not just a physical act. It is a metaphor for lighting candles to battle the darkness. Those who decorate homes and buildings throughout our community with Christmas lights are also taking part in this beautiful and important endeavor. Wherever we find darkness, injustice, intolerance, illness, deceit, hopelessness, sadness, despair, political and military struggles that seem to go on forever, brutal dictatorships, oppression, and hate, it is upon us to struggle for a better world. To help us remember to engage in this important mission, we light Chanukah candles to ward off the darkness and bring in the light (a metaphor for the good overcoming the bad).
A central message of Chanukah is never to give up hope and to always continue the struggle to make things better – to bring light into the world. The Chanukah songs, the latkes (Chanukah potato pancakes), and the dreidel games are always delightful. This year, especially, however, I hope and pray that we can embrace the mission that the holiday presents us with: go forth and bring light into the world.