Hanukkah: Especially Now, Shine Your Light
Let's take the light that shines within us and share it with others, so that together we can light up our world.
With all the sprinkle donuts on display (in addition to the jelly sufganiyot of course!), with all the dreidels and Hanukkah gelt and decorations, with all the wrapped presents and Hanukkah cookies to paint on and tablecloths to color, we could be forgiven for thinking that Hanukkah is a holiday for children, and that once our children are no longer living at home, the obligation to celebrate the holiday is much less.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
While Hanukkah, like most Jewish holidays, has components of it that encourage young children to get involved, the message is a much more adult one. And we are commanded to celebrate the holiday even if we are alone in the house (which, as Covid-19 continues, is all too frequently true).
What do we want to focus on to ensure that our Hanukkah is a meaningful one and to enhance our experience of the holiday? (Hint: It’s not latkes.)
I saw a beautiful idea that has its roots in one of the famous arguments between Hillel and Shammai. The question arose, “Can you use one Hanukkah candle to light another?” Shammai insisted that you could not. “How can you diminish one candle to light another?” he queried.
But Hillel looked at the situation differently. “When I use one candle to light another,” he posited, “we both benefit.” In other words, if I use the flame that burns within me to light someone else’s flame, the fire within me isn’t extinguished; in fact, it burns ever brighter. I don’t lose by lighting someone else’s candle; I benefit! In helping you, I’m the one who grows!
And in the same way that one mitzvah leads to another, so too one light leads to another, until we have a big flame, until the light of that one original candle is illuminating the whole world.
On Hanukkah let's take the light that shines within us, the light of our souls, and share it with others so that together we can be full participants in lighting up our world!
Hanukkah is also the holiday of dedication or actually more specifically re-dedication. With the pure light of the menorah once again burning in the Temple, we recommit ourselves to the values it represents. We rededicate ourselves to connecting with the Almighty and to following His Torah. We remind ourselves that despite the darkness around us, there will always be light.
This message is a timeless one that resonates anew this year. And it’s not enough to think it, to know it, to write it, even to discuss it with family members. This is a re-dedication that we need to shout from the rooftops – or more practically from the lit menorah in our living room windows. Because it’s an idea that we want and are obligated to share with the rest of the world.