THE DAYS HAVE been growing shorter, and even when the sun does shine, it generates so little heat it feels as if it has deserted the world.
During this darkest time of the year, mankind has always sought ways to bring light into the darkness — either with fire, from the joy of loved ones, or through the light of kindness and generosity to others.
Our celebrations during this time, no matter what our tradition, involve both physical and spiritual light.
Tomorrow night will be the last night of Chanukah, which can occur anytime throughout December because the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle.
Thus Chanukah always occurs during the very darkest time of the year, when the dark of the moon is closest to the winter solstice.
Though most people assume the solstice is the darkest time, that cannot be if the moon is shining in the night sky.
As we light another candle for each of the eight nights, the moon gets ever brighter, and we feel as if we are actually bringing back the light.
The word “Chanukah” means dedication, reflecting the struggle of the ancient Jews to reclaim and rededicate the temple which the Syrians had seized and defiled during a rebellion against their oppression.
It is the first recorded fight for religious freedom, and we remember that small band of rebels confronting the mighty Syrian army whose king, Antiochus, had forbidden any practice of Judaism.
As we light the menorah, we see the symbolism of the candles ushering light into the darkness of the world.
Today, it feels as if we could use millions of candles everywhere.
The hatred being spewed toward Jews and other minorities, the insistence on demonizing “the other,” the vilifying of migrant refugees and the willingness of people to turn away and remain silent in the face of bigotry, has created a very dark landscape.
However, our acts of kindness can become individual sparks creating the flames of justice.
Each time we bring light to another, no matter how small or trivial it might seem, we release more of the holy sparks of the divine, thus bringing us closer to a world filled with the brilliance of God’s light.
A Jewish prayer says “When justice burns within us like a flaming fire, when love evokes willing sacrifice from us …. we demonstrate our belief in the ultimate triumph of truth and righteousness, then Your goodness enters our lives and we can begin to change the world.”
When we light the menorah, we are encouraged to sit in darkness and gaze at the flames, allowing our bodies and minds to relax, and to reflect on how we can illuminate the world with our actions.
As the light increases each night, we are inspired to dedicate ourselves to easing the suffering of others.
Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
At this time when our entire community begins to burst forth with brilliant lights everywhere, illuminating these long nights, we remember the hope and joy they represent in every tradition.
Let us use these lights to help us resolve to bring light and comfort to those who feel lost and alone.
The Talmud teaches us, “The candle you light will give light to a hundred.”
Light a candle, bring brightness to others and spread love and joy where ever possible.
Allow God’s light to shine through us during this most beautiful season and in so doing, light will once again envelop creation.
Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community. Her email is [email protected] olympus.net.