December is the darkest month of the year. It’s no coincidence that Chanukah, a holiday in which we are commanded to increase light each night, occurs exactly as our days become shorter and our nights become longer.
The holiday season is full of that contrast, of moments of light and darkness. It’s in the joy of reuniting with relatives we only see at this time of year and the absence we feel from those who are no longer physically present with us. It is in the excitement of watching our kids experience the holiday as only kids can, with a certain level of abandon that we lose as we grow into adults, and the pain of navigating complicated family dynamics and outdated family systems we have grown out of but find ourselves returning to at this time of year.
We teach, every year, about “light in the darkness,” about the beacon of hope that our chanukiyot represent, their little lights dancing in windowsills. We teach, every year, about light as an act of defiance against encroaching darkness.
And as mythical as the tale of the oil that lasted eight nights may be, and as problematic as I find the harsh tactics of the zealous Hasmoneans, I am nevertheless heartened by the message each of these stories teach: all is not lost – all is never lost. When we each illuminate our little corner of darkness, by lighting candles and standing up against tyranny, we find each other in the midst of that darkness. And when we join light with light, we are warmed by each other’s glow, and strengthened to continue to shed light into the darkest places.
This December, may we each offer our warmth and feel each other’s warmth, and may our candles burn brighter together.