Neis gadol haya sham. A great miracle happened there; and, so we commemorate the miracle of the improbably long-lasting light by observing 8 days of Hanukkah. While technically a “minor” holiday on the Jewish calendar, it is one of the most widely observed among our people. As the winter darkness seems to come earlier each day, we pause to bring light into this world…together with Jews of all traditions, geographies, and denominations. Whether you light with family, friends, coworkers, or on your own, you know you are never lighting alone.
It is also a time to acknowledge miracles of all kinds. We remember Hanukkah miracles of the past, retelling the story of the long-lasting oil, but also the miracle of the seemingly unattainable victory of a small group of Maccabees over an aggressive and large group of oppressors. We remember miracles in our own lives, looking back on moments we never thought possible before they happened. And, we join together in hope for miracles to continue, and the world’s darkness to turn to light as our candles illuminate our homes.
Hanukkah also offers the opportunity to illuminate hearts and homes through the tradition of giving. The age-old custom of gifts of gelt (money) on Hanukkah comes in many forms today - a simple gold coin (or one filled with chocolate), a toy that brings joy to a child, or a book to inspire learning. Many of us also use Hanukkah to inspire giving to others and to teach our children the mitzvah of tzedakah during times of both celebration and of struggle. There is no better time to participate in a toy drive, to buy a warm coat for someone in need, provide volunteer service, and, of course, donate to your favorite charity before the end of the calendar year.
Yes, it’s no secret that I want JCRC to be your favorite charity, and that I hope that you will donate now in honor of Hanukkah! But, regardless of how you choose to give, I hope that you will embrace Hanukkah fully this year – the togetherness, the miracles, and the giving. May our world go from darkness to light, and may your Hanukkah be joyful, peaceful, and warm.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach,