Tonight, our family along with many other Jewish families will light the first candle for the celebration of Hanukkah 5772. As the flame burns brightly inside our home, we will place our Menorah in the window facing the street to make our light visible.
The word Chanukah derives from the verb la'chnoch--to dedicate, inaugurate, celebrate a fresh start, to begin anew.
Hanukkah lasts for eight days to commemorate the Maccabees victory over the conquerers of Israel in 168 BCE and to remember their rebuilding and renewing of the Jewish Temple, which had been defiled. The Maccabees were faced with the challenge of cleaning and rededicating a still-standing, but desecrated Temple. As they sifted through the wreckage to salvage what they could, they found a tiny container of oil, which they expected to last for only one night. Instead, this small amount of oil burned brightly for eight nights.
These days, at least for us, Hanukkah is less about age-old miracles--as magical as they may have been--and more about an opportunity for renewing and building what may have gone stale in our lives, or that which has failed to develop and evolve. The festival of lights provides a chance for us to envision how we might be better and do better,how our world might be a more tolerant, enlightened place. The insights flicker, but to enact them in our daily lives--that is the galvanizing challenge.
May everyone be free to light their own lights and to display their glow for all to see. Blessings for a joyful Hanukkah.