As you read this article, the lights of Chanukah most likely are behind us. The menorah is wrapped up with a few small wax reminders of this year’s lightings. But they will sit dormant in cupboards and closets, ready to come out again when next Chanukah comes.
I always love seeing the candles dancing gracefully in their holders; the lights reflected in the windows as we sing the blessing for lighting the chanukiah (the Chanukah menorah). In my neighborhood, and I imagine most neighborhoods in the greater Huntington area, while Christmas lights twinkle at most homes, the few scattered menorahs still are a welcomed site. They are a reminder that there are others who share this beautiful heritage that encourages us both to light lights AND to be a source of light.
I wish we could add several more branches to the chanukiah. Not so much to extend the holiday (and any need for additional presents); rather, it just feels that in the darkness of these days, adding more and more light gives us hope. With winter’s official start in December, we currently see the shortest amount of daylight. On top of that natural darkness, add the ever-present gloom that comes from any number of adversities, including struggles with finances, health, relationships, work, and family, not to mention greater upheaval in the world of politics or personal rights and freedoms. Of course, the constant persistence of anti-Semitism surfacing almost on a daily basis doesn’t help matters.
When there is light, we feel warmer. We can see more clearly what (and sometimes who) is right in front of us. With a little added light, we can better find our way forward and feel prepared for what life might have in store, both good and bad. Even in darkest times, though, I marvel at this community because I know this synagogue, and the people who are part of it (and yes, that means YOU!!), do so much to increase the light in our world. Each can of food, wrapped present, pet supply, and dollar collected, every little bit, add more light to this world. Perhaps that is why the best response to darkness is committing to add more and more light.
I am reminded of the two great rabbinic houses, Hillel and Shammai. When discussing the chanukiah, Shammai wanted the practice to start the first night with all 8 candles lit and then subtract one for each following night. However, Hillel said we should start with one and add one more each night as a symbol of how we should add more light with each passing day. As you might have guessed, Hillel won the argument and not just because he was a nicer guy, but because his message held more sway. Bring more light, adding to it each day, and we can dispel the darkness (or hopefully keep it at bay for a while).
Now that Chanukah has ended and 2023 lies just ahead, I hope it will prove to be a better year for all. More importantly, I hope we can continue to work together in the months ahead to strengthen one another and the people of the Greater Huntington community through continued acts of kindness, compassion, and understanding. Each interaction is an opportunity to see through any darkness and create many moments of warmth and light.
May the future ahead be bright and joyous for everyone!