Hanukkah 5784

Each year we all agonize over whether Hanukkah is a religious holiday. Many interfaith households wrestle with the situations of respect and sensitivity to Hanukkah and Christmas. And every year there are articles written about how to celebrate and how to identify, so that the spiritual aspect is not lost in the commercialism.

It certainly is a time of lights. There is darkness all around us. The days are short. The nights are long. It is cold and the harshness of winter is fast approaching. Life withers as do trees, and flowers, and people. We sleep, as does nature. Some do not wake. It is the darkest time of the year.

This particular year it is very dark. Gloom and doom seem to be everywhere. We are witnessing mass murders occurring in our cities. In Israel the nightmare of barbarism remains evident with the murder of 1400 Israelis. The description of these atrocities is too gruesome to describe. And the destruction of the evil that has permeated this corner of the world hopefully will be eliminated. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? We have such doubts, and we struggle to find optimism.

Hanukkah is a time of re- dedication — we saw an example of that when the Maccabees put sword in hand to ensure the survival of the Jewish people and their  faith. We cannot recapture the past, but we can use it to ensure the future. The religious freedom that was won some twenty-three hundred years ago has been the clarion call for all people throughout history. Every battle for religious freedom has had as its foundation the spark from the candles lit to celebrate the scourge of evil.

Hanukkah helps us understand the eternal struggle of good over evil. We pray for good to survive. We attempt to eradicate evil. What we all want is to be left alone so that we can be secure and free. What we need are voices that will drown out the hate and animosity. God cannot do this for us — we need to do it for ourselves. That is the message of Hanukkah — with faith in the right, we lead the battle — not expecting some mighty hand to do it for us. We have been given the ability to survive. All we need to do is grab it and run with it.

And yet, in the final analysis, we still want some Divine intervention to save us from the path of destruction whether in the Middle East or here at home. And to pray for guidance is not bad; it is necessary for us to understand that it is we who must affect the change for good to complete the partnership we all have with God.



Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D