Chanukah is, for American Jews, our season of Jewish pride. We celebrate our survival throughout the centuries, and the religious and spiritual resilience, which have enabled us to thrive as a community of faith and action wherever we have lived.
In the face of rising anti-semitism, increased numbers of acts of hatred and bigotry both in the US and around the world, the messages of Chanukah ring particularly true. We Jews are here, proud, and committed to bringing light to the world.
Other themes about Chanukah are:
The Celebration of Light, as Chanukah is a winter solstice festival (common in many cultures).Celebration of the victory of the small (but mighty) Maccabees over the much larger Greek armies.
Commemoration of the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the oil, which according to legend burned for eight days when there was only enough for one.The celebration of religious freedom, for which the Maccabees fought, and is in our day, a cherished tenet of American life.
I came across this teaching, which illuminates another important theme of Chanukah.Rabbi Laura Geller, one of the most influential Reform rabbis of our time writes:
“The miracle wasn't that the oil lasted an additional seven days, but rather that those ancestors lit the first wick at all, without being certain that the light would last long enough to complete the rededication of the Temple. The miracle was that they took the chance, a risk, a leap of faith. They took the first step even though they were not sure they had enough resources to succeed.
What is the real miracle of Chanukah? It is the miracle of human courage that empowers us to take risks for the future even in our imperfect, uncertain world. It is the courage, even in the darkest of times, to create our own light.”
May we, at this season and throughout the year, be blessed with courage.
Hag Urim Sameach – Happy Chanukah!