Our Jewish brothers and sisters are more than halfway through Hanukkah or The Festival of Lights. This annual festival celebrates the cleansing of the Temple in the second century BC. The symbol that most often is associated with this festival is the menorah. This candelabrum holds 9 candles. 4 candles on each side and one elevated candle in the center. There is one candle for each of the eight nights of this festival and the center candle is the shamash which is elevated above the rest and used each night to light the next candle in succession. The eight nights of lighting a candle bears great significance. "According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil." [see Wikipedia] This miracle of light has fuelled a people to celebrate hope for centuries.
In reading about Light dispelling darkness in advent I happened upon this quote:
At this time of year, when the sun is most hidden, the holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the rays of hope and light. Indeed, the physical darkness of this time of year can be a metaphor for the darkness that often envelopes us at times of illness and loss of a loved one, when the world sometimes feels dark and cold. At such times, we yearn for the sun, and the light and warmth that it provides. Often, it is through simple and unrecognized miracles that we are able to feel the warmth of hope and light.
Rabbi Rafael Goldstein
Many people struggle at this time of year. We sometimes limp into this time of ‘celebration’ with wounds that seem fresh, wounds that still sting. I have a new appreciation for those who grieve through the holidays. The darkness of this time of year really does not help. A friend told me at breakfast last week that heaven is like being in the warmth of a crisp bed on a sunny Saturday morning after a long day of play that leaves us exhausted. He described the heavenly realm as that moment when we wake and feel the warmth of the sunlight striking our faces. It is a fitting metaphor I think. It is hard for us to hold on to the memory of what the warmth of that sun is like in the darkness of a winter evening. The Jewish custom of kindling a light each night for those eight nights is a visceral reminder that the darkness is temporary. And so it is that in each day we have moments when we might try to recognize the miracles that are unfolding around us. Each miracle that we acknowledge is another light kindled when it seemed impossible that there should be light at such a dark time. The bright spots are there – look into the eyes of a child at this time of year and the light is easily visible.
Happy Hanukkah to all of our Jewish friends and I pray that we may all find ourselves illumined by the miracles that we hope for at this very special time of year.
"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders." – Jewish Proverb