Are you ready for Chanukah? It begins this coming Friday night, December 11! Eight days of light and joy for you and your family and the world. The chanukiah –which is the nine branched menorah–fills our homes with a special glow. It reminds us of the struggle of the Maccabees, a family of priests who fought both the Syrian-Greeks and the Jews who wanted to assimilate into Hellenistic culture. King Antiochus trashed the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, dedicating it to the worship of their Greek gods. The Maccabees fought a three-year guerilla war against the strongest army in the world and prevailed to ensure that Judaism survived and that the Temple was liberated. Chanukah celebrates the rededication of the Temple to the worship of the Jewish God.
I am inspired by the Maccabees dedication to their cause, to our cause. They didn’t let the great odds against them quash their ideals. They remained committed and dedicated even as the war dragged on because they knew and believed that Judaism should survive and that the Jewish people should survive. They fought for religious freedom and liberty. So they might worship and celebrate their heritage. This is the message of Chanukah and the message of the lighting of the chanukiah (menorah). That each night of the eight nights of Chanukah we add to the light of the world by rededicating ourselves to this task. Judaism has such a strong ethical foundation. Each night of Chanukah the light of the candle spreads this ethical light out to heal us and to reach beyond the Jewish people. The light of the chanukiah washes over us and urges us to be a light unto the nations. The light of the chanukiah reminds us that even in dark times, corrupt times, we have to rededicate our lives and our being in the world to this light of transformation. In the face of the Bernie Madoffs and bank bail outs as a society we have to face ourselves and the corruption that surrounds us and drags us down as a society.
The light in the ancient temple transformed that world. The light of this year’s Chanukah celebration, we pray will help transform our world. But it will take our doing and our commitments and our passion to see it through. The Maccabees had it in them. Do you?