By Rabbi Daniel Lichman
The Spring carried us into and through the first lockdown: the blossom, the budding leaves, the new life: Pesach. The Summer gave us the long days to walk outdoors: the heat of the sun, energy: Shavuot. The Autumn helped us let go of the pain that had accumulated: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and into Sukkot.
And now, the long nights of the winter are upon us, the restrictions still in place. Many of us are totally fed up. The energy to safeguard our well being is harder to come by in a winter of continued social distance, isolation and the loneliness that follows it.
Thank God for Chanukah.
On Shabbat Rabbi Larry Tabick taught us from his new book: A Higher Light. He pointed out that in the story of creation God says at the start: ‘let there be light.’ Yet the sun and the moon are only created on the fourth day. So what is the nature of the light from the first day of creation? According to the mystical teachings of our tradition that light - the primordial light is the hidden light. The light that is still there even amidst the darkness. The light that shines out when we gain insight from Torah study. The light of the Chanukah menorah that increases daily.
Chanukah is traditionally a minor festival which our tradition is often ambivalent about - after all it is not mentioned in the Tanakh, nor is there a tractate of the Mishnah/Talmud named for it. Often it is a festival for children, made more important as Jewish response to Christmas.
This year we need Chanukah more than ever.
From the isolation of our homes, in the absence of chanukah parties/gatherings, you are invited to join together with community for Chanukah lighting and the light-of-Torah each of the nights of Chanukah. We'll also be welcoming our newest Community Builders and the light they bring to our community at New Builders Kabbalat Shabbat, a fitting reading of Chanukah as 'dedication.' And on Shabbat Chanukah itself, our smallest members will gather with their loved ones to sing together with joy.
In Kabbalat Shabbat we sing the verse: ‘A harvest of light is sown for the righteous person and joy for the constant heart.’ Our mystical tradition teaches us that this light which the verse refers to is the primordial light of creation that shines out in the dark when we most need it. Let it shine for us this Chanukah.