Finding The Miracles of Hanukkah

Never in my life have I been more grateful for Hanukkah. Every year, I love the joys of this holiday: eight nights of celebrations, lots of opportunities to try different latkes, and, of course, lighting candles. 

I always love the commandment to pirsum hanes: to publicize the miracle of Hanukkah and place our menorah in a window. I love sharing Hanukkah with my friends and family — both those who are Jewish and those who aren’t. But this year, Hanukkah feels different. 

This year, Hanukkah is more poignant. The story of hope, and miracles, and the simple act of lighting candles to make a dark time just a little brighter, is so resonant. 

After all, the world is definitively darker these days, and it’s not just the sun setting earlier. Last week, we again saw swastikas in the “Flood the Tree Lighting for Gaza” rally, which took place during the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center. We’ve seen the UN be slow to condemn the acts of sexual violence against Israelis on October 7th, only this week offering a comment that fell short. We have seen university presidents fail to unequivocally condemn calls for genocide. We are devastated by the continued fighting and losses in Gaza as Israel fights for security. We see even more clearly that this war will not be won quickly. 

What better time is there to turn to our Hanukkah story? 

On Hanukkah, we are reminded (to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt) that a small group of committed people can change the world: the Maccabees, who were few in number, decided to fight for Jewish independence, and won. Today, the Jews are less than 1% of the world population and less than 2% of the US population. But our commitment and connection to Israel, and to the Jewish people, is not limited or defined by our small numbers. 

On Hanukkah, we are reminded that we are people of action. When the ancient Greeks desecrated the Temple, the Jews didn’t wait around for a miracle. They got to work cleaning and repairing their place of holiness. Perhaps when God saw their dedication to repair, God figured out how to make the oil last all eight days. 

On Hanukkah, we are reminded that there is always the possibility of miracles. The Maccabees knew that there wasn’t enough oil to last for eight nights, but they lit the lamp anyway. And now, thousands of years later, we light lamps at home and tell their story. Is the miracle that the oil lasted eight days? Or is the miracle that we are still here? When we light our menorahs this year, what miracles will we invite? 

On Hanukkah, we are reminded that even small actions can make a big difference. Striking a match, lighting a candle, and saying a blessing is not complicated. It is an action that people of (almost) every age can take. And who among us has not felt the delight of lighting a menorah? 

There’s an Israeli Hanukkah song: “Kol echad hu or katan, v’chulanu or eitan:” Each of us is a small light, and all of us together are a strong light. We can’t wait to be together and create our strong light this Hanukkah at JCP. We have gatherings for each night—join us!

Shabbat shalom,