Is it remarkable that many people on this planet have a festival during the darkest days of winter that celebrates light? There is Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Diwali (a Hindu, Sikh and Jain festival on November 7, 2018) and Tazaungdaing (a Buddhist festival). With the least amount of sunlight this time of year, it is not surprising that festivals of light developed that offer warmth, community and celebration. Prior to the invention of the incandescent light bulb, people sought reassurance that more sun and warmth would return, and that the fears that grew out of darkness were just superstitions.
I do not think I need tell anyone that Chanukah this year was unique, moving and welcome, especially the communal menorah lighting on the Tree of Life property to begin the holiday. For weeks, the image I have regularly seen in the media is the massive stone exterior of our main sanctuary with the black letters “Tree of Life”. All we have represented to America is a symbol of the presence of hate and horror. Hearing all those assembled loudly singing the candle blessings, especially the final Shehecheyanu blessing (praising God for keeping us alive, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this day) was so very powerful, the combined voices uplifted me, even as my voice choked up. When Detective Sgt. James Glick flicked the switch to light the menorah, I started to cry. It was another cathartic step toward healing. The first candle loudly proclaimed “We are here. Our light did not go out.”
Just as the Maccabees overcame a serious threat and rededicated both their sanctuary and themselves, one day we too will rededicate our sanctuary. For now, we need to rededicate ourselves to eradicate the H word. Just don’t use it. Period. That could be the best Chanukah present you give.