A Light of Hope
This year, the first of eight Chanukah candles will be lit on December 24th. Rabbi Karen Bender, Skirball Director of Spiritual Life for the Los Angeles Jewish Home, shares some timely thoughts about the Festival of Lights.
The phrase, “A light of hope” has become almost cliché, yet it is a profound and inherently Jewish concept. Ever since Isaiah inspired us to be a “light unto the nations,” a single light illuminating for all to see has been a recurring image in Jewish life. Every time we light Shabbat candles, we echo this notion and every time we light Chanukah lights, we echo it even louder.
The Chanukah story is a story about light in the darkness. When the Syrian-Greeks banned Judaism in Jerusalem and beyond, and conquered and desecrated our Temple, darkness and repression spread among us and no one could imagine Judaism would survive. Three years later, the Maccabees overcame the darkness. They fought for freedom of religious expression before the term even existed. The legend that they found one flask of oil that should have only lasted one night but a miracle occurred and it lasted for eight nights, serves as a metaphor for what the Maccabees accomplished.
You can light one flame in a very dark place and all of a sudden you can see. How much the more so eight lights.
What is that light that we celebrate today? The light of family, the light of community, the light of the miracles in our everyday lives, the smile that only a perfectly delicious latke can bring! Just a few months ago, here at the Los Angeles Jewish Home we celebrated the lives of our centenarians—38 residents who have reached the age of 100 and above. The light they each bring to the world is not just the length of their days, but the quality of their lives and their character.
Chanukah is an opportunity to continue to teach light and life, love and peace, human dignity and unity, and, of course, hope... the light of hope.
As we will be lighting our 8th candle on New Year’s Eve this year, on behalf of the Jewish Home I wish everyone a Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year!!!