It is hard to imagine the emotions that the Maccabees felt as they stepped back on to the Temple grounds. Perhaps they felt joy to be returning to a sacred space, perhaps they felt sadness for the years of worship missed or perhaps they felt anxiety at the work still to be done. These possible emotions resemble the mixed emotions we ourselves hold as we slowly return to our sacred spaces. Our sanctuaries, of course, have not been desecrated by pagan statues or sacrifices, but we too have been prevented from gathering together in our houses of worship. The Maccabees were able to overcome a formidable enemy and we, I pray, will soon defeat a daunting virus.
I wish that this comparison could end with our Jewish community rededicating our sanctuaries and celebrating together for eight days. But unfortunately, the continued threat of COVID-19 demands that we seek out a different kind of Chanukah – a different form of “dedication” this year. We should not gather for our typical Chanukah parties filled with children, have Latke making events where dozens of cooks fill the kitchen, or gather for concerts featuring our Chanukah favorites. Chanukah, in fact, does not need any of these joyous traditions to convey its messages. Chanukah means “dedication” and we can dedicate ourselves in new ways this year; we can reimagine our rededication.
Rabbi Harold Schulweis taught, “The Chanukah lights remind us that miracles are as real as the transforming power of ideals.” His words remind us that Chanukah is a story of standing up for our ideals. Tradition teaches us to not only kindle the Chanukah lights in our homes, but also to place in our windows for all to see. Chanukah prompts us to both physically and metaphorically “shine the light” for others to see. Where do you want to shine your light? What causes need our attention? What injustices need our voices speaking out against them?
On Chanukah we bless God for “performing wondrous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season.” This Chanukah may we add to this blessing by partnering with God to perform wondrous deeds in our times. May we “shine the light” and inspire transformation.
SHINE THE LIGHT
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