It is easy in a way, to identify or even reduce certain Jewish holidays to food. Chanukah is obviously thought of in terms of food fried in oils… latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). These foods are things I would consider comfort foods, as well. We identify them with our youth… with a celebration… and they certainly stick to our guts… and our souls.
There are also the traditional “symbols” of the Menorah, the Dreidel, the Chanukah Gelt… with the last two especially appealing to children or the child that is hopefully still alive in all of us.
One candle lighting eventually eight others… That candle never diminishing in its own glow… its own brightness… its own light. A powerful statement on our own potential to be a light unto our families, our friends and the nations.
The light of the Maccabees… the light of their battle and struggle.
The light coming out of a very dark period of Jewish history.
And the metaphor is not lost on what is happening in the world at this very moment.
No matter where you fall, there seems to be a darkness in the way people are behaving… An anger at a level which I really do not ever recall. Civilized conversation and discourse seems to be as rare a commodity as Bitcoin. And an ex-Facebook executive just came out and talked about the dangers of social media on society, not just for addictions to it, but at how much anger is out on the internet and in the world.
There is something almost mystical and magical about watching the flickering of a flame. It truly dances with light and purpose. And while we cannot stare at it for too long, it brightens up so much… provides warmth and spirit.
Light leads the way… torches illuminate a path. We read by it… study by it… and cook with it.
Light has so much power and potential.
And while the darkness makes the light stand out that much more… if we truly fill the world with light, then darkness cannot exist.
So much of the world… so many of our ideas… are defined by the opposites. We understand good, by also understanding bad. A simple but powerful concept.
The idea of Israel being a light unto the nations shows how serious we must take this leadership role… how much responsibility we have to live a meaningful and purposeful life.
If you are like me and watch the news, you cannot help but feel depressed at watching (sadly) mostly men fall from grace. Some have great accomplishments, well beyond fame. Some have fought for women’ rights, given generously to charities and done many wonderful things… but their misdeeds, whether one or many, have brought the walls of their lives and the people around them crumbling down.
It begs the question of how good do we have to be? Very good, I would say. Certainly not ever behaving in the way these men are being accused of behaving. Just using common sense… doing what is right… being a good human being… and representing yourself and your family well.
Judaism and this particular holiday has taught me that if you always do the right thing, you probably cannot go wrong. Results may vary… Things might not work out as we think they should… but if our intentions are true and honorable, and we are always trying, with all of our hearts and souls, to do the right thing… then that should be our light… That should make us shine…
And so on this first night of Chanukah, let us all be the Shamash… the “attendant”… to ourselves… to our family and friends… to the world… and of course, to Hashem. So A Happy, Healthy And Wonderful Chanukah for us all!