on Thursday, 22 December 2016.
Posted in Rabbi's Blog
From our rabbi
Our festival of light comes in the middle of our darkest season, when the days are short and the seasonal affective disorder kicks into high gear. The candles of our menorah are meant to brighten our hearts and offer us an invitation to share time with family and friends. While they shed us sweet light that we can use to see, our Chanukah candles also represent the great miracles that happened there, in Israel, so long ago and the hopes that came along with the incredible Maccabee victory over the Greeks, and the oil that lasted for eight nights when there should have been enough for just one day of light.
When we recite the blessings for lighting the menorah, we say two blessings each night. First, we say the blessing over the opportunity to light the candles, but the second blessing cuts to the special nature of our Chanukah season. Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, she-asah nisim l’avoteinu ba-yamim ha-hem, baz’man ha-zeh. Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, Sovereign of the universe, who made miracles happen for our ancestors in their days and in ours. When we recite this prayer and light the candles, the hope is that each of us can make a connection between the miracles of the Chanukah story and the miracles that we experience in our own lives—to recognize the gifts of life, of friendship, of family, of meaningful work, of Cubs’ World Series championship(s?), of breath, of song, of joy, of love as the miracles they truly are (especially that Cubs’ World Series championship(s?).
I believe we still experience miracles. Our challenge is to open our hearts to just how amazing life can be. Many of us feel that when we are able to explain exactly how we’ve achieved our blessings in life, they are not miracles, but understanding does not have to take away from the miraculous nature of our experiences. We can find ways of explaining the Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks (the Greek presence in Jerusalem was likely an over-stretched army made up of troops who came from other lands that the Greeks had conquered and conscripted. They didn’t care about Greece. Why should they die for it? Wouldn’t it be easier to retreat from these Jewish zealots and live?). We can explain the Cubs’ World Series victory (Theo Epstein?). Regardless of the explanation, such feats were unexpected and important and filled with wonder. So too can we allow our wonderful moments to fill us with awe and appreciation.
At the same time, when we light the candles and recite the blessings, we can also recognize that we each have the potential to create miracles for those around us, bringing love and amazement to others. We can be the shamash candles that bring warmth and light to the world. Since Chanukah this year leads right into the New Year, I pray that we each live our second candle blessing. May we connect the miracle of light that happened so long ago to our experiences today, and may we bring light to the New Year, working to bring the wonder of miraculous acts of love and kindness and understanding to the world.
L’shalom,Rabbi Ari N. Margolis
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