Hanukkah brings with it each year the retelling of the miraculous story of the past and, of course, the joy of light, laughter, presents (small or large), games, oily food and all the other things that make up the celebration of the festival.
But Hanukkah is more than just a celebration of the past and of the present, it is also a statement for the future. The flames are symbolic of the hope for a renewed and strengthened spiritual life which brings light to our dark and our “ordinary” days. It is a hope for a world filled with increasing light, with joy and salvation spread to all.
This year, as we reach the midpoint of Hanukkah, I urge you to look at the “half-lit” hanukkiah and see it as reflecting the teaching of our rabbis hat we should see the world as perfectly balanced between good and evil, salvation and destruction so that even one small act can tip the balance in the proper, constructive direction.
I hope you will take this occasion of the mid-point of the holiday as a time to pledge yourself to working for more meaning in your own lives and for more light and joy in the world at large. As you see the lights grow over the nights to come, take a moment to think about areas in your lives and in our world which desperately need more light and then, on each of the last nights of the holiday, dedicate the lighting of the candle to a symbolic meaning in addition to the traditional meaning of the holiday,
You may decide to reflect on the struggles of the brave people of Ukraine. Perhaps you will dedicate one of the nights to expressing concern for the environmental dangers that threaten the world. One night, you might offer a prayer for peace in Israel and an end to the divisions and violence which has caught up so many for so long. Or, you may look around our nation and think about ways that you can be a person who brings people together rather than accentuate differences.
On an personal level, you could see the candles as lighting your way to increased commitment to study over the year to come. Perhaps you will envision the promise that an upcoming simcha holds for you and your family. You might see the candle as a memory for a loved one who has died recently but whose presence you feel at the lighting of the hanukkiah.
But whatever it is that you do each night, realize that prayer and symbolic commitment is meaningless without action. So, make sure that in addition to remembering people in need, you make that donation to tzedakah you’ve been meaning to do. If you have decided your life needs some a stronger spiritual component, commit to participating in some adult education programs or getting back to studying Torah. If you are looking forward to a simcha, start now to think about how others will benefit from your joy. If you are thinking about Israel, Ukraine or those here at home, take the time to engage, on whatever level, in political action to support the cause which is most meaningful to you.
The Maccabees didn’t just sit back and imagine what the world could look like. They acted and then used the light to inspire them to further action.
So, if you’ve celebrated a few days of Hanukkah by focusing on oil and latkes and presents, keep the joy and the light but try to envision a greater meaning for these lights.
I wish you all a holiday season full of light and a happy and healthy 2023!
One thought on “The Middle of Hanukkah”
Thank you for this reminder of the balance between good and evil and our ability, and duty, to try to tip the balance toward the good. Chag Sameach to you and your family, Rabbi.