Chanukah 5779

There is a short passage in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21B in which the rabbis are debating and discussing
some of the specifics around lighting the Chanukah menorah. One of the questions they ask is, do we begin Chanukah by lighting all eight candles in the
chanukiyah and then decrease by one candle each night until on the eighth night we have only one candle or, conversely, do we start with one candle on
the first night and add one candle each night, ending up with eight on the final night? You all know how this debate is settled. The reason our practice
is to add one additional light each night of Chanukah is because we do not decrease in holiness, we only go up in holiness. One might have thought that
we would want to usher in the festival of lights with a fully lit chanukiyah and then decrease our light throughout the festival. Instead, we start with
a single light, believing that even at the darkest time of year, we know and we hope that the light will return. The story of the oil in the Temple is
of rabbinic origin, and is thought to have become popular owing to the desire on the part of the rabbis to downplay the military victory, particularly
when the Jewish people were living under Roman rule. However, there is another beautiful midrash. The rabbis ask, why do so many cultures have festivals
at midwinter that focus on light? Adam HaRishon, the first human, while in the Garden of Eden, noticed that the days were getting shorter and the nights
were getting longer. Having never experienced this before, Adam HaRishon became afraid, wondering if the sun would ever return. Adam HaRishon assumes that
the sun is disappearing forever, never to come back. And this is why we have Chanukah, to demonstrate our belief and our knowledge that light will, in
fact return.
We are living in a world in which light feels even harder to perceive, or is entirely absent from the world. May our increase in light each night help
us imagine and remember that even in the moments of greatest despair and darkness, we can work for a world renewed and light-filled.


Got Questions?
Send a Message!