A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness

This Chanukah, the light of our candles and our community feels especially important. A few years ago, during another cold, dark Chanukah season, our late colleague and master teacher Avi West, z”l, shared some wisdom that continues to resonate today. I think you’ll also find it relevant, meaningful, and comforting. 

Avi taught: 

“As we light our candles, I find myself wondering about what the real miracle of Chanukah might be. Perhaps it’s that the message of Chanukah still resonates two millennia later. It’s true, the story of the holiday centers on the strength of the Maccabees to fight back against their oppressors and restore the Temple in Jerusalem. But where does their perseverance come from? ‘Not by might and not by power, but through my spirit.’ The universal idea that repairing the world is accomplished by the good-hearted is a message that humankind needs more than ever.  

It is not a cliché to say that we live in dark times. How amazing is the Jewish wisdom that answers our most significant challenges through annual rituals that inspire us to action and light! Our response to the darkest season of the year, or to any dark period of history, is to stand up and set our world aglow with goodness and light.  

An old Israeli Chanukah song, ‘Banu choshech legaresh’ (we came to drive away the darkness), serves as inspiration to us as individuals, and for what The Jewish Federation aspires to do in community: ‘We come to chase the dark away, In our hands are light and fire; Each individual light is small — but together the light is mighty. Flee, darkness and night, Flee, before the light.’ 

Together with partners across our community and around the world, The Jewish Federation is building an open, connected, and vibrant Jewish community, strengthening and sustaining Jewish life in diverse ways, and addressing critical needs locally and around the world. And like the candles we will light for Chanukah tonight, we do this openly and unafraid, letting the light and our actions shine out from our windows and inspire society.  

Thank you for keeping our flame burning and our light shining. We couldn’t do it without your help.” 

I was honored to learn with and from Avi, and I know many others in our community also shared that privilege. Though he is deeply missed, we are still blessed with his lessons. May we all be uplifted by Avi’s enduring wisdom and legacy.  

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah, 

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