June 8, 2023 /
I always have a feeling of excitement and anticipation as we announce the coming of the month of Kislev during Friday night services just before the new month begins. I feel this excitement because Kislev holds the holiday of Chanukah and Chanukah is the perfect holiday for us to be celebrating just as the seasons shift and it gets darker earlier.
There is a great Chanukah story that I love and it’s not the obvious one about Judah Maccabee and the oil that lasted for eight nights. This one is a story from the Babylonian Talmud about two rabbis, Hillel and Shammai. The two of them are in a fierce debate over how to light the Chanukah candles. They debate every nuance you could think of in regards to lighting the candles. Do you light them left to right or new to old or do we start with one on the first day or all eight? Ultimately, it is decided that each day we increase the amount of candles rather than decrease them. Why? Because it helps us remember the true meaning of Chanukah.
You see, Chanukah is not about gifts and latkes, dreidels and gelt; that’s just how we celebrate it. It’s really about reminding us what it means to be a Jew. That we have an obligation to add light to the world even when the world feels truly dark. It is about affirming our belief that miracles can happen when we put our faith in the right places and when we come together to make the world a better place. As I look out now onto the landscape of not just America, but the world, I see societies all over this planet that are in great need of light.
As we light the chanukiyah candles this Chanukah let us affirm their power and ours and dedicate ourselves to bring light to every place that darkness tries to find its way into. May this be a truly special festival of lights for you and your family.
Philip N. Bazeley