As the sun sets tonight on this first day of December, we realize the first decade of the 21st century is rapidly drawing to a close. It is also the night when Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) begins. Those of the Jewish faith will light the first candle on their menorahs to celebrate the victory of Jewish Maccabees’ military over Syrian oppression more than 2,000 years ago and the miracle of Temple candles that burned for eight days – with only one day’s worth of oil. Rabbi Brad Hirschfield offers thoughts on the Festival of Lights:
It feels that with every passing day of the last decade, our personal lives, like the Hanukkah top known as a dreidel, spin faster and faster. That’s the world of Hanukkah 2010, a world that needs Hanukkah and the opportunity it provides ─ to remember, reconnect, and renew.
This is not a Jewish thing, anymore than the world needing the beauty and promise of the Christmas story, even though we are not all Christian and will not all agree about the theological meaning of that story. This is about an ancient holiday which promises ways of helping us through turbulent times.
Hanukkah is a time of heroes, of people who made miracles happen and no matter what the cynic may say, heroism is not dead and there really are still heroes in our world.
In fact, today’s real heroes may be much closer than we realize. They may even be staring back at us when we look in the mirror. And that’s where the story of Hanukkah comes in.
Most of us, Jewish or not, have some knowledge of the story of brave, strong Judah Maccabee fighting to liberate the Temple in Jerusalem. But do we recall that he was a small town boy with few material or institutional resources at his disposal when he began his career? In all likelihood there was little special about Judah and his family until circumstance and their own determination presented them with a challenge which they saw as an opportunity.
In a culture that too often substitutes celebrity for heroism, and cynicism for sophistication, we need to recall that part of the story, also. It’s the part that reminds us that everyone is already a hero, or at least has the capacity to be one.
Each of us, according to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, is a living Hanukkah candle capable of spreading our own inner light in the world and living a story of heroism by doing so. Each of us can live our most deeply held values in ways that not only improve our own lives, but contribute to the lives of those with whom we live and work.
Our nation’s capitol also joined the festivites today. The annual National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony took place today at 4:00 PM EST on the Ellipse on the White House grounds in Washington D.C. Musical performances included numbers from the U.S. Air Force Band. Those attending were treated to traditional hot latkes and doughnuts.
Popular Hasidic Jewish reggae musician known as Matisyahu, has written a fun, celebratory new song to honor Hanukkah. He wanted to convey “some of the depth and spirituality inherent in the holiday” and “give Jewish kids something to be proud of.” Here is Billboard’s Top Reggae Artist of 2006 – Matisyahu – with Miracle… (Warning: Your dancing feet will emerge!):
► Jayde Wyatt