What a strange and puzzling time this is. We have come together to celebrate Thanksgiving and we are in the midst of the holiday of Chanukah. One holiday summons us to remember the ancient “miracle.” The other calls upon us to give thanks for the blessings of our lives and to recognize that those blessings are themselves “miracles.” Or, as one of our sages declared: “Our lives are filled with miracles; only that we cover our eyes (and our hearts) and fail to see them.”
Chanukah recalls our first recorded struggle for religious freedom, and for the right to be “different.” King Antiochus attempted to impose Greek Hellenism upon all of his subjects, including the people of ancient Israel. But the Maccabees insisted upon remaining loyal to the way of life set forth in the Torah, and so the struggle ensued, resulting in a heroic victory and the rekindling of the holy lights.
For me, those holy lights continue to burn. I saw them at the temple this week as so many Temple people came together to prepare and deliver hundreds of Thanksgiving meals for those who are in need. Those “holy lights” could be seen as the children of our nursery school, and our teenagers, prepared sandwiches for those who live on the edge and struggle to survive. Yes, I see the sacred lights of Chanukah wherever and whenever we cause kindness, compassion and hope to prevail.
Yes, this is a puzzling time. On the one hand, our thoughts are focused upon matters so serious as the impact of our government’s latest position on Iran and its impact upon Israel and our world. We are all confused and disappointed over the chaos regarding health insurance, and question the capacity of our leaders to lead with vision and wisdom. And of course, there are the human tragedies about which we learn, and our yearning for a just and peaceful world.
But in midst of all of this, we gaze upon those “holy lights” and we are reminded that “miracles” do happen and that light can prevail. “Light one candle” says the song. So may each of us be a “flame” of hope, kindness and goodness as we together cause a great and holy light to shine.
I hope that you will join with us for our Chanukah service this evening. Please bring your menorah as we bless and celebrate the great light of hope and promise.
Rabbi David Greenberg