A short kavanah (intention setting) that appears in Siddur Sha’ar Zahav greatly resonates with me during this Chanukah season:

“In times of darkness, people have always kndled light – to remove the gloom of ignorance, to chase away the clouds of doubt, and to overcome the fear of oppression.  We, too, come together to kindle light: the symbol of our prayers for peace, for hope, for freedom, and for blessings for ourselves and for the entire world.” [1]

I think that this basic truth explains the endurance and magic of the eight days of Chanukah.

Much more than gift giving. For, as our tradition teaches – “Azehu Ashir? Hasame’ach bechelko.” -   “Who is rich?  The one who is happy with his or her lot.”  (Pirke Avot 4:1)

Much more than militaristic victory celebrations.  For, as our tradition teaches – “Azehu gibor – Hakovesh et yitzro”  --   “Who is strong? The one who has impulse control. For one who is slow to anger is better than one who is strong; and one who rules one’s own spirit is better than better than one who conquers a city.” (Ibid.)

But lighting candles in the face of darkness symbolizes courage, faith and hope. And increasing the light with each night of Chanukah, reminds us to have optimism in the future.  As the Talmud teaches --- וטעמא דבית הלל דמעלין בקדש ואין מורידין  -- “Bet Hillel’s reasoning was that in matters of holiness we ascend rather than descend.”  (Shabbat 21b)

There’s a modern Israeli Chanukah song that I love that goes –

Banu choshech legaresh /Biyadeinu ohr va’esh /Kol echad hu ohr katan /Vekulanu ohr eitan. /Surah choshech hal’ah shchor./ Surah mip’nei ha’ohr. 

We come to chase the darkness away. In our hands are light and fire. Each person is a small light.  But together we are a mighty light.  Turn away O Darkness. Turn away in the face of the light. 

I once heard it taught that the miracle of Chanukah was not that the single jar of oil lasted for eight days, but rather, that we had the courage to light it without knowing whether it could last.

So it is with our lives:  Faith, community and tradition can give us the strength to push ahead even when we can’t predict what the future may hold.

Whatever challenges we face individually or communally -- May we all be blessed with the capacity to focus our hearts and minds on the light of gratitude – and to banish from ourselves the darkness of cynicism and despair.

Surah choshech mipnei ha’or – Turn away o darkness in the face of the light.

Chag Urim Sameach/ Happy Chanukah!

Posted on April 13, 2016 .