Happy Chanukah! Today is the third day of Chanukah, and tonight we will light candle number four. From a religious perspective, Chanukah is often a missed opportunity for spiritual growth, as the giving and receiving of gifts can take center stage, especially with our children.
With a little effort, Chanukah can be an opportunity to celebrate the uniqueness of our faith, and when it falls during Christmas (like it does tonight), we have a beautiful way to share joy and bring light into the world in a way that compliments the Christian celebrations that surround us.
Eating latkes, spinning dreidels, lighting candles and reciting the proper blessings have long bonded us in our homes and our communities, but there is so much more to this holiday than these joyous customs. We must remember that real fight of the Maccabees was a fight against assimilation. Their fight was an aggressive attempt to eradicate a trend that had permeated Jewish society of that time – the gradual deterioration of the Jewish identity because of assimilation into Hellenist society.
When viewed through the lens of history, the celebration of Chanukah takes on many additional nuances which are important for us today. There is the nuance embedded in the historical narrative that we cherish and celebrate as we view Chanukah as a holiday celebrating liberation and religious freedom. There is the nuance which reminds us of the importance of maintaining a sense of who we are and what we value while living in a society dominated by values which may compete with our own. And there is a nuance which warns us against being too zealous in our beliefs.
Each of these nuances challenges us to understand this winter celebration in a way which is broader and more meaningful than the simple lessons taught to us in our youth. While the legend of the miracle of the oil may lift up our spirits and fill our souls during the dark months of winter, history provides us with a lens through which we may examine our present in light of the past.
Beckye joins me in wishing all of you a very Happy Chanukah!