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A Chanukah Light

17/12/2020 01:01:44 PM


Hot off the Internet – some Chanukah sparklers entitled “Top Reasons to Like Chanukah”.  

1. No roof damage from reindeer  

2. You can use your fireplace  

3. Good cheer optional………  

4. No Irving Berlin songs  

5. Spin the-dreidel games!  

6. Visit your ophthalmologist for Chanukah correction: My hindsight is 2020 but my vision is 2021. 


Here are a few other reasons that make Chanukah so significant:  

1. Chanukah is about the capacity of human beings to build within imperfect situations, to trust beginnings and focus their passion on the present moment. This is the essence of the miracle of the cruse of oil. There was sufficient oil for one day only but the Maccabees were willing to use it and light the Menorah. They were not defeated by the common-sense approach, “If I can’t complete it, why bother starting it?” Rabbi Tarfon in Avot responded this way: “The work is not yours to complete, but neither are you free to desist from it”.  

2. Chanukah is about the centrality of the home. Even though the historical story ostensibly relates to the Temple (Chanukah HaBayit) and thus the shul, the power of the Maccabees had its source in the home of Mattityahu. It was there that Mattityahu’s five sons were urged to stand up against the Hellenistic outrage to ban and destroy much of Jewish culture. The home of Mattityahu was imbedded with values which made it impossible to surrender their Jewishness to a Greek-Syrian lifestyle and culture.  

It remains a compelling challenge for contemporary Jews who are tempted by the “urge to merge”. You can remain Jewish and embrace the current around you without having to give up the critical elements that make you who you are. 

3. The Chanukah lights, which should ideally be kindled after dark, remind us about the triumph of the human spirit. It cannot be extinguished. Even a little light can dispel a lot of darkness. The twenty-fifth word of the Torah (in Genesis) is “Ohr”, light. Out of the “tohu vavohu”, the wasteland of human relationships, there can always emerge “vayehi ohr”, a lamp of hope. This is thus emphasised by the lights of the twenty-fifth of Kislev.  

4. The Chanukah lights should be placed near a window where they can be seen outside (“pirsumei denissa”). Say many of our leaders: this reminds us that it is not enough to illuminate only your own home with the light and warmth of Torah, but that it is necessary to spread it outside into the neighbourhood and community at large. Social consciousness and a caring heart are central to Jewish identity.  

We are living in an age of acute anxiety and uncertainty; where nihilism abounds and is even attractive (“why bother starting new things when a little virus may destroy it all?”); where our homes are undermined by the power of a border-less, untempered Internet; where there is famine on the screen, polarisation and hatred in the street; where antisemitism abounds; where the light of hope is so feeble and fragile.  

It is precisely to such an age that the messages of Chanukah speak with an urgency and compelling clarity. They remind us to have courage and determination, to bolster our homes and our hope, to light a candle for the past, a torch for the present, a flame for the future…  

Let’s take this message with us into the holidays and let it illuminate our resolutions for the new common year.  

Enjoy the summer break, relax, recharge and have good family time.  

Chag Sameach! 
Rabbi Ralph 


Wed, 20 October 2021 14 Cheshvan 5782