Sunday evening marks the start of Chanukah, our so-called “Festival of Lights.” But Chanukah is much more than that, even as many people have long since forgotten the profound messages of what many people believe to be “a children’s holiday” or “the Jewish Christmas.”
Chanukah is an ancient holiday rooted in the quest for religious freedom and political independence. Yes, we enjoy the latkes and the dreidels and the joyous songs. And all of that is part of our celebration. But ask people “why do we celebrate Chanukah?” and most will respond: “because of the oil that burned for eight days.”
In truth, I don’t know if that miracle story is true. But I do know that Chanukah commemorates an even greater miracle: that we Jews, so small in number are still a vibrant part of our world, and that Judaism has remained an influence, not only in our lives, but an influence for our world at a very troubled time.
To enable us all to make our personal Chanukah celebrations and the lighting of the candles a rich and meaningful experience, I have written eight passages, one for each night, that you might consider reading aloud before lighting the candles. Each speaks of a different ideal for which Chanukah stands, and I believe that these statements will speak to all of us about the “true” meaning and messages of Chanukah.
Rabbi David Greenberg