In our solar system, the sun is in the center and our Earth travels in orbit around the sun. Each year is a single rotation of our planet around our anchoring star. As it travels through its orbit, our planet also spins regularly around its own axis; each rotation equaling one day. And not each daily rotation is identical. Where we live, the days with the most daylight hours are in the summer, and the days with the shortest length of sunlight per day are the coldest days of winter.
The universe does not know about years, and days, and hours. These are our way of measuring the passage of time and giving order and meaning to our growing and aging.
Now, in the darkest hours, of the shortest days of the year, together with Jews all over the world, we celebrate the incredible power of light. Light that can dispel the darkness, light that can inspire rebellions and victories, and the light of our ancient traditions, the traditions of Chanukah, which give us guidance as we fly our days through space.
Each winter, when the days get their shortest we commemorate the ancient trials of our people and celebrate their triumph and their ideals by lighting lights (usually candles or oil, but be careful and follow good fire-safety protocol) and placing the lights in public view so as to make famous the miracle of that ancient victory.
Technically, it is not enough just to light candles. The flames must, if possible be visible to passers-by so that spreading word of what happened is a part of the process of remembering and celebrating. We can’t just enjoy the memory of their ideals, we must share and make great those same Maccabee ideals. Chanukah reminds us that freedom, and honor, and generosity, are ideals worthy of fighting for. As we recall the valor of the Maccabees and the tyranny they suffered, we recommit to our religious and spiritual heritage, and share the message of pride in our Jewish culture with the world around us. Rather than compare our holiday with Christmas or Kwanza, let us proudly proclaim our own celebration, and share the uplifting light that the menorah brings. In celebrating Chanukah this year, lets invite others to share and spread the Jewish ideals of hopefulness in the face of trouble and devotion in the hour at hand.
May God’s light, and the light of Chanukah bring light into your heart, and may you share the joy and history of Chanukah with others you care for.
Rabbi Hillel Norry