HAPPY CHANUKAH by Rabbi Linda Potemken
Chanukah is here! I invite you to embrace these eight nights and to maximize their pleasure and meaning. Here are ten reasons I savor our festival of lights:
- It’s Time: Chanukah occurs two months after we danced with the Torah at our last autumn festival, Simhat Torah. We are due for another celebration!
- Light: The days are woefully short this time of year and it is uplifting to light candles and to enjoy the dance of the flickering flames after chanting the blessings.
- R&R at Night: There is a custom of refraining from work while the candles burn so that means we are actually relaxing for 20-30 minutes in the evening.
- Connect: Chanukah is a social holiday. It provides us with eight nights to join with others to light candles or share food.. The Haftarah for Chanukah speaks of rejoicing, as God is in our midst. The presence of others helps us to feel the divine and to cultivate the joys of community and connection.
- Miracles: Chanukah brings a serious message. The letters of the dreidel remind us that this is about a “neis”, a miracle. The neis is that one portion of oil lasted eight days. This is an invitation to see other events in our lives as miracles and to look for sufficiency where we might not otherwise see it.
- Affirming Judaism; Chanukah’s other message; A reminder to take pride in our Jewish identity and in our unique traditions.
- Interfaith Connections: Chanukah can help us to build bridges. It is a good opportunity to invite our non-Jewish friends, family and neighbors to light with us. The more interfaith work that I engage through the ICSDC (Interfaith Council of Southern Delaware County) or FUSE (Fellowship for Urban Suburban Engagement) the more I appreciate the importance of explaining and sharing our ways to help others to understand Jews and Judaism.
- Tzedakah: Honor others through charitable donations to worthy organizations made in their honor. This is a great way to spread the light.
- Dedication: There is a special name for the final day of Chanukah - Zot Chanukah - meaning, “This is Chanukah.” One reason for this name is that the Torah reading for the final day of Chanukah contains the passage “Zot chanukat hamizbeiach,” “This is the dedication of the altar” and the word Chanukah is rooted in the word “dedication”, inviting us to explore: To what do we dedicate ourselves as winter begins? What tikkun olam efforts? How will we spread light, learn Torah and open our hearts to others?
- BI’s Shabbat Chanukah celebration! Light candles, sing, bless, pray, play, rejoice, spin, eat and party in community. BIMAS play, Chorus sings, mass quantities of latkes and chocolate are consumed (as well as potluck treats). Don’t miss December 15th at BI. and bring your friends. This is a festival for all ages !