This evening as I chanted the blessings with my family before lighting the Chanukiah, I was reminded of the many miracles that have brought us to this day. We are blessed to live in a country, and specifically, in an area of this country where we can boldly place chanukiot in our windows for all to see. Yes, the chanukiah makes it clear that there are Jewish residents living within, but it also says much more.
Publicizing the miracle of Chanukah through lighting a chanukiah has many different meanings. For some of us the miracle is about Jewish continuity. How incredible it is to imagine that the Jewish people have maintained these lights each year, and are able and proud to proclaim again that we are still here and we are full of hope and gratitude for our lives and our heritage.
Perhaps we are lighting these lights to acknowledge that the Jewish State is no longer a dream but a reality. That it remains a place of hope for so many people in Israel and around the world as it blossoms into a nation that not only acts as a safe haven for Jews everywhere but lives up to the prophet Isaiah’s vision of a home for all peoples to live in peace through its Jewish character of kindness, compassion, and justice.
The lights can represent the idea that human beings should always find reason to have hope – even when darkness surrounds us; even when an army much larger than one’s own (internal or external) is threatening destruction; even when it seems that all hope is lost and nothing can be done. Publicizing the miracle of maintaining one’s hope reminds us, as it reminded our ancestors, that a Jew believes in the possibility of miracles at any moment and in any situation.
Finally, publicizing these lights reminds us to take responsibility for bringing that light to the world through our actions. As we learned this past Shabbat from our Scholar in Residence, Rabbi Shai Held, the Jewish people is both encouraged to do “chikui” with a “kaf” and with a “kof“- to have faith and wait for redemption as well as to imitate God bringing redemption through our actions. While we cannot be responsible for ending every injustice and transforming our world we are not free from engaging with the work of repairing it.
May these eight nights of lights inspire us to act from gratitude and hope, and may they remind us of who we are and what we may yet become.
Chag urim sameach!