Chanukkah 2023 and 8 Jewish Values!
Chanukkah means dedication. This holiday, the festival of lights, commemorates the rededication of the Temple after the Maccabean Revolt. Many of us, no matter our age, associate Chanukkah with this dedication. We light our chanukkiot (ritual candelabras with holders for nine candles) and celebrate the miracle of the oil that lasted eight nights. However, the story behind this dedication – the war that led to it – gets far less attention during our celebrations. The fact is that the Maccabees were fighting against an enemy that forbade practice of the Jewish religion and sought to suppress the religion in its entirety. The story of their success is an example of a successful effort to establish political independence and resist an anti-Jewish government.
This Chanukkah the Jewish people are sadly at war. In Israel, our friends and family are fighting to eliminate an evil enemy that strives to suppress the practice of the Jewish religion and eliminate Jewish presence in the land of Israel and the world. Similarly, around the world, we are fighting a war too. We are fighting against those who call us liars and believe that Jews do not deserve the same rights as others. This war is not new, it has been carrying on at times loud and at others quiet for centuries, but this moment is different. At this moment many of us are seeing and feeling things that we have not encountered before. Things that make experiences we only heard about from our grandparents real. There is a lot of work to be done to achieve peace. The road ahead feels long and scary.
Most years we talk about how Chanukkah takes place at the darkest time of the year and we focus on bringing light into that darkness. On Chanukkah it is a mitzvah – a commandment – to light the candles in our chanukkiah and to place them in the window for all to see. We are commanded to publicize the miracle. This year, lighting the chanukkiah represents far more than bringing light into the darkness of night. It represents bringing light into dark times; the actualization of light conquering darkness. Lighting candles in our windows represents the courage of the Jewish people to fight for our survival and our right to exist as Jews, and it offers hope that we will have peace.
Many of my Jewish friends are seeking to bring more Jewish rituals into their regular practice. In an article on reformjudaism.org Rabbi Ruth Adar suggests that we dedicate each night of Chanukkah to a different Jewish value. At camp this summer, Kocahvim campers considered 8 of Camp George’s values:
- Kehilla – Community
- Kavod – Respect
- Haklala – Inclusivity
- Zahoot – Identity
- Chessed – Loving Kindness
- Sakranut – Curiosity
- Tzedek – Justice
- Tikkun Olam – Repairing the World.
In every activity they were given the challenge to consider what these values mean to them. Which of these values are you appreciating this Chanukkah? Which are you feeling challenged to uphold? How can you express these values during this holiday and in the weeks to come?
May your Chanukkah be filled with light and tasty oily foods.
Written by: Arielle Branitsky, Dean of Jewish Living