For some, dark and light represent a reflection of Jewish history: the tyrannical regimes who have sought to destroy us, and the heroic resistance efforts that have sustained our survival.
For others, the contrast between warm light and icy darkness represents the eternal inner ethical struggle of humanity, as we grapple with good and evil.
This Chanukah, though, I would call your attention to this piece of Talmud, written by our rabbis of 1500 years ago, who argue that darkness is the affliction of blind indifference to the needs of others. And light is the awareness that enables us to transcend that blindness to truly see (and help) those in need:
Rabbi Yose said: I was long perplexed by the verse from the Torah that reads
You shall search about at noontime as a blind person searches about in darkness
(Deuteronomy 28:29). What difference does it make to a blind person whether it is dark or light outside? [Rabbi Yose then proceeds to answer his own question with a story.] Once I was out walking in the pitch-dark night, when I came upon a blind neighbor of mine. He was walking with a fire torch in his hand! I asked him: Why would you carry a (dangerous!) fire torch, when it won't help you see? His neighbor replied: As long as the torch is in my hand, people will see me and help me.
Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 24b
This is my prayer for all of us during this Chanukah season. May the lights we kindle serve a purpose. To the One who populates our history and our lives with miracles: grant us the miraculous ability to see beyond ourselves, to better perceive those who surround us - particularly the ones who need us most. Enable us to more generously share of ourselves, just as the
shamash shares its light on each of our eight festive evenings.
From my home to your's - wishing you a joyous and meaningful Hanukkah,
Rabbi Jeffrey Brown
For Further Reflection and Hanukkah Celebration
Do you have extra time in this holiday season to volunteer to help those in need? Use this amazing UJA-NY resource to be matched up with volunteer service opportunities. And: mark your calendar for January 25 at 7:30 PM, when our Social Action team will be convening at the synagogue as we actively seek to match new volunteers to existing community service projects and consider launching new ones.
Are you in search of new Hanukkah music? Check out kveller.com's picks for Top Ten Hanukkah Songs! And click herefor an article about Woody Guthrie's contribution to Chanukah music.
Not sure how to light the menorah? Reach out to any of our clergy, or click here for a funny "how to" video.
Still looking for a "go-to" latke recipe? This one has been the staple one in our house for years. And check out this news report from Brooklyn's Eighth Annual Latke Festival.