December 22, 2021
Yesterday, December 21, was the Winter Solstice–the shortest and darkest day of the year. Usually this day coincides with, or is at least a little closer, to Hanukkah.
But our Eight Day Festival of Light came early this year, at the end of November on the Gregorian calendar. Bringing light to days that are growing colder and darker is one of the themes of the holiday. We start with one candle, and marvel at the amount of light one small flame can bring. Each day we increase in light, in hope, in courage, and strength. The fifth day of Hanukkah is important and pivotal. It is the day that the balance shifts and the amount of light (five out of eight candles) overtakes the dark.
So today, on the Gregorian calendar is much like the 5th night of Hanukkah. Today, the direction turns. We are rising out of seasonal winter darkness, and slowly increasing each day with more and more light.
Another aspect of Hanukkah is that we are to display the miracle of the holiday (which is multifaceted in its meaning) publicly. With courage and pride, we are to place the menorah in our windows. With a disturbing rise in Antisemitism, it is more important than ever to boldly express ourselves as Jews. Hanukkah may be over, but we must continue to bring light, to shed light, to spread light, and illuminate the darkness that descends around us.
I encourage all of us to find ways to publicly display our Jewish-ness. During these dark and frightening times, instinct may tell us to hide. It may feel more convenient or safer to tuck away certain parts of ourselves. It's important to metaphorically keep the menorah kindled and prominently placed in the window, all year long. What does it mean to you to “keep the menorah burning?” How can we make this a priority for the secular new year? What can you do to bring more light and awareness to places of darkness, misunderstanding, ignorance, and hate? You don’t have to dispel the darkness on your own. But remember the incredible amount of light one small hanukkah candle brings.
…And from there it grows.