Hanukkah is just around the corner, and at this time of the year, we are probably thinking about the gifts still left to buy, the latkes we will get to fry, and the candles we will light.
Hanukkah is also called Chag HaUrim – the Festival of Lights. We celebrate the miracle of the oil the Maccabees found lasting for eight days when it should have lasted for only one. The oil was a sign of hope for the Maccabees and for the Jewish community at the time, just as light is a symbol of hope for us. It is no accident that the Chag HaUrim falls around the darkest time of the year, close to the winter solstice. We physically light up the darkness of long nights as we kindle the Hanukkah candles, and the holiday also gives us opportunities to light up the darkness in spiritual ways.
Just as the Maccabees rededicated the Temple to make it fit for Jewish use again, Hanukkah offers us a chance to dedicate and to rededicate ourselves to important causes – to bring light into the world through our actions. Hanukkah inspires us to perform acts of gemilut hasadim, loving kindness and tikkun olam, fixing the world. These acts can be big or small, they can start here at Beth David, or they can be focused farther away.
This year, there is so much darkness in the parts of California that have been ravaged by fire and in Pittsburgh, where the Jewish community is still grieving the horrible and senseless loss of life. Hanukkah gives us a chance to do for others, and in so doing, to bring a bit of brightness and light into someone else’s life. I encourage you to dedicate a night or two of Hanukkah to helping someone in need. Please consider donating to one of these two tzedakah organizations or to the charity of your choice:
Below you will find a “Kislev is for Kindness” calendar. Although the month of Kislev is well under way, it is not too late to engage in these acts of gemilut hasadim that will make our world gentler and brighter.
May this Hanukkah inspire us to dedicate ourselves to lighting up the darkness. Wishing you a Happy Hanukkah and a Chag Urim Sameach,
Rabbi Jaymee M. Alpert