Bringing Light into the World
Ever since I was a child, this has always been one of my favorite times of the year. The weather typically turns colder, it gets dark earlier and we are in the midst of the holiday season. Each year in elementary school, my mom would come into my class to do a Hanukkah celebration – complete with latkes, Hanukkah-shaped cookies to decorate, and dreidels. You see, where I grew up in the Northern California East Bay, there were not many Jews in my school, let alone where we lived. (Sound familiar to anyone?) However, I loved the experience because it was my chance to celebrate my holiday, Hanukkah, with my school friends.
I share this as a way to illustrate one of the many themes that get celebrated during this time of year… the concept of light… or specifically in the case of enlightening. As I believe I have shared previously in this column, December is the time of year when many cultures and people celebrate a Festival of Lights. And it is completely understandable since this is the darkest time of the year… we have less sunlight in December and into January than at any other point of the year.
Like other cultures and religions, Judaism’s traditions and rituals have deep roots, oftentimes followed without a clear understanding of why we do what we do or how they got started. However, the lighting of candles… the idea of bringing light into the world during its darkest days makes a lot of sense. Yes, we have the story from the Midrash of the oil and the miracle of it lasting for eight days when it should have only lasted for one. But the idea of bringing light into a dark place adds another layer of meaning to our holiday.
As you may remember, the word hanukkah means dedication. It was the dedication of the Maccabees to our tradition that helped enable us and Judaism to continue to celebrate the many traditions, rituals, and customs we still have to this day. Their dedication to our tradition and their commitment to not let the “light” of Judaism fade is another important lesson that we need to embody and share with future generations.
It becomes our responsibility… our dedication to continue to celebrate and keep that light from fading. Even more so during a time of a significant shift in the Jewish landscape that is taking place right now.
Where once it is was an anomaly for synagogues to merge or close, now in some areas announcements of these are happening more frequently.
It is unclear at this point how these shifts in the Jewish landscape will impact us here in the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. But, what I can assure you is that the Jewish Federation and our local community partners are prepared and ready to adapt (as needed).
And as we light our Hanukkah menorahs this year, let’s do what we can to continue to bring more light into the world through our dedication, commitment, and support of our Jewish community.