Whether you spell it Hanukkah or Chanukah – the holiday season is here, which means it’s time to light the menorah, exchange presents and, of course, eat latkes. But beyond landing a gimel on the dreidel and raking in the Hanukkah gelt, this ancient holiday holds a deeper message that’s relevant for today.
Hanukkah, often called the festival of lights, celebrates the story of a small group of people changing the system when everyone else thought it was impossible. During the time of the Hannukah story, ancient Israel was not a particularly friendly place for the Israelites. The Jewish religion was being outlawed, celebrating the sabbath risked the penalty of death, and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem had been defiled. A small group of Jewish warriors known as the Maccabees, rebelled against the Greek-Syrian rule and, against all odds, succeeded in igniting a revolution that drove them out from the land.
This is where the Menorah, the symbol of Hannukah comes in. The final victory for the Maccabees came when they removed the foreign statues from the Holy Temple and rededicated it. (The word ‘hannukah’ itself actually comes from the word ‘to dedicate’) As the story goes, the Maccabees rekindled the lights of the menorah and a miracle occurred because although they only had enough oil to burn for one day, the light of the menorah burned for eight days.
Flash forward to today: When you light a menorah each night of Hanukkah, you plug into a story that is thousands of years old. And you make a bold statement: you become a light in the darkness, you stand up for a strong and meaningful Jewish community, and you cast your vote with hope and change, even when it seems impossible. In other words, you believe in – and are willing to act for – miracles.
Starting tomorrow, give the gift of Hanukkah miracles through Repair the World’s “Eight Nights of Service.” Keep an eye out for great service and volunteering ideas for each night of the holiday.
This article was contributed by Eitan Press who works as the Social Media and Blog Director for The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.