Posted on December 11, 2020
Hanukkah falls in what is absolutely the darkest time of year, no matter where (in the northern hemisphere) you live. The days are the shortest, the nights are the longest, and the moon is the dimmest. Hanukkah comes at the very end and the very beginning of the Hebrew month when we can scarcely see the moon at all. It is dark.
And what do we do on Hanukkah? We light up the dark with our flames, we penetrate the night with our song. Hanukkah candles are lit in the evening, after it is dark, not in the daytime when it is light; the blessings and the songs ring out into the night. (Except for Friday night — once it is dark on Friday night it is already Shabbat and candles cannot be kindled, so on Friday nights the candles are lit before Shabbat, preferably the kind of candles that will last at least half an hour into Shabbat.) We literally light up the dark.
We are now entering what is arguably the darkest part of an already dark year. It is cold, we are more than wary of the isolation, it is hard. It is a good thing that it is Hanukkah! Hanukkah reminds us that we can and must penetrate the dark with light and song, right now, when we need it the most. Hanukkah reminds us to raise our voices for what is right. Hanukkah reminds us to make a point of spreading warmth and joy to those with whom we come into contact. Hanukkah reminds us that lighthearted play can be quite valuable, no matter what our age.
gan Hanukkah last night with a communal candle lighting and a concert by Cantor Aronzon and his family — I still feel the warmth that was generated. We will join together every night of Hanukkah, each time hosted by a different family. Tomorrow night will include havdalah and an exciting family education program about Hanukkah in America. Many families will be presenting their projects. Sunday afternoon there is also the JCC “Chanukah on the Go” program.
I conclude with a rewrite of a classic Hanukkah song, by Rabbi Jill Hammer:
We’ve come to sanctify the dark,
in our hands a little spark
Each of us is a tiny light,
and together we’re so bright.
Come up darkness, rise up night,
Come up, to greet the light!
חג אורים שמח
Rabbi Miriam T. Spitzer