We recently celebrated the festival of Hanukkah. There are many interpretations and midrashim concerning the story of the Maccabees and that single bottle of oil
that lasted eight days. Hanukkah literally means “dedication” and I invite you to consider what it means to be dedicated. My view of dedication during the week of Chanukah involves light. Light is a concept used in Judaism in almost all of our worship and holidays. Have you ever considered why light is the chosen metaphor? The Torah teaches us that God created light on the first day of creation. However, a little later in the text it is described that the sun, moon, and stars were created on day 4. The question then is, if the sun, moon, and stars (sources of light) weren’t created until day 4, where did the light come from that is described in day 1?
Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 3:4 has an answer to this question. The light of the first
day was not light as we know it. It wasn’t a “physical light” that comes from the
sun. Rather, it was God’s inner light, light emanating from the creator himself.
What does it mean to imagine God’s light filling the world? Considering we are all
made in God’s image and have a piece of him/her within us, we should use our inner
light to make a difference in the world. I challenge you to dedicate yourself to bringing light into the darkness. It is no accident that Chanukah occurs during the darkest time of the year. We can brighten those days – for ourselves and for others.
Imagine how pleasant this world could be if we all used our inner light to repair the world. That would be the ultimate act of Tikkun Olam.
During Chanukah, we add a special insertion to the Amidah. AL HANISIM, talks about miracles. This is the text:
A common translation (the one found in Mishkan T’filah) is : “We thank You for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds and saving acts, brought about by You, and for the wars which You waged for our ancestors in the days of old, at this season.” These words are also said during Purim, the holiday when we celebrate Queen Esther’s victory in freeing our people from Haman. When we say these words, we are remembering these miracles. However, just like at the Passover seder when we think of ourselves as slaves in Egypt, Al Hanisim invites us to remember our own human participation in those miracles. The heroes of these stories, Queen Esther
and Mattathias took their lives in their own hands. They were very brave and knew that their actions would have lasting impact on history. As we recite Al Hanisim and thank God for doing miracles for our ancestors, we should remember that we too played a role in bringing about those miracles. We are in a partnership with God. God entrusted us with carrying on his work. We need to make space for modern-day miracles. We cannot
expect God to perform miracles to redeem us while we accept them passively. Like any relationship, both parties have to give a little. When we do our part and work in concert with God, we come closer to redemption. What we do here on earth will have an influence on what comes next. Our own redemption is a direct result of how we live our lives.
May this Chanukah season serve to remind us that the miracle of light can illuminate the darkness of hatred, racism, destruction, and injustice. I look forward to seeing you soon.