Let’s talk about Chanukah

Between Us

Parashat Vayeshev begins with a brief sentence: Jacob dwelt in the land of his father’s sojournings, the land of Canaan.” Commentators note the intimation that Jacob was more settled than his father Isaac; that succeeding generations may feel more comfortable and settled in the land than did their ancestors.

On Sunday night we light the first Chanukah candle, and celebrate the holiday in a land of freedom, a land in which we feel more settled than our parents and grandparents. We are commanded to display the lit hannukiah – menorah – in a window for all to see. The story of Chanukah changes for me as I grow older. From the simple “miracle of oil” story, it has become a complex historical treatise of civil war between Jewish religious zealots and Jewish assimilationists and deniers of tradition. And while I continue to study in an effort to better understand the lessons of Chanukah, I am inspired by the dual message of candles burning in our windows: a bold statement to the outside world of Jewish pride, while at the same time reflecting inward the quiet warmth and beauty of our heritage.

The meanings of Chanukah are many, but perhaps none more important than the lesson that while we may not be in control of all our circumstances, we are very much in control of how we choose to act (and react), how we treat others and implement the values by which we choose to live.

As human beings, we are the only species on the planet to self-reflect, self-modify and consciously decide to improve upon our thoughts and behavior. To wit, the Maccabees’ response to the Syrian-Greek oppression: in the face of adversity, they chose courage. They chose life. They chose to believe in a better future while remaining true to their religious ideals. We should do no less.

Chag Chanukah Sameach.


Here are three ways to Make It Yours this week: