As the days grow darker and colder, we find ourselves hibernating in the warmth of our homes. Winds blowing, snow falling and temperatures dropping all remind us of winters past and question our choice to live in such a cold climate. We hold tight as each day grows darker.
As we approach the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, we look forward to longer days and more sunlight. It is no coincidence that every culture celebrates a holiday during the winter to bring festivity to this gloomy time of year. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, makes the darkness more bearable and even enjoyable as we remember the heroism of the Maccabees.
The Maccabees are our heroes, a small band of Jews fighting the mighty Syrians for religious freedom. The truth of this story is that the Maccabees not only fought a mighty army but they fought apathy and conflict within their own community as well. The Maccabees rallied other Jews to renew and rededicate their own faith.
The tension that persists in the Middle East feels dark and gloomy, and yet we all hold out hope that peace can be achieved. Perhaps the cynics will say it isn’t possible for the Palestinian people and the Israelis to live peacefully. Like the Maccabees we must fight our apathy and skepticism in order to rededicate ourselves to the hope for peace.
I want to believe that even in the midst of violence, those who deter the peace can be turned toward peace. And those who support it will raise their voices together to drown out those who are against it. We must hold onto the hope.
As the days grow shorter, we live with eager anticipation of the light from the Chanukah menorah which illuminates the darkness in our lives and in our world. Our tradition teaches us to add a candle for each successive day of Chanukah. As the menorah light becomes brighter and our days grow longer, we hold onto our hopes and prayers for a season of light, joy and peace.
The Hebrew word “Chanukah” means to rededicate. We pray that as we celebrate our Festival of Light, a new light will shine upon the world and enlighten the leadership of the many countries at war to move with all their might toward a peaceful coexistence one with another.