This evening we will light candles for the first night of Chanukah, ushering in our Festival of Lights, Chag Urim. Why does a Jewish day begin at sunset? Because in Bereishit, our Creation story with which the Torah opens, we read, ‘And it was evening, and it was morning, one day.’ The Baal Shem Tov teaches, ‘Just as night follows day, so too our capacity to be with darkness precedes our capacity to be in the Divine light.’ This is a pattern familiar to the Jewish People: slavery precedes freedom; exile precedes redemption, suffering precedes rebirth and renewal again and again throughout our history. For the Maccabees in their struggle against the mighty Assyrian Greek army, their courage and faith armed them in a seemingly overwhelming challenge that led eventually to national liberation. That we are given the resources we need to deal with the greatest challenges is a powerful spiritual message for our individual lives too.
This Chanukah, as we move deep into December darkness, in the face of all the challenges we have endured as a result of the Covid pandemic, let us draw hope from the knowledge that our capacity for being with darkness precedes our capacity to be in the Divine light. We begin with one single light this evening, increasing to eight lights to mark the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when the holy Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated. So too will our hope and joy increase as we join together to light the Chanukah lights online at 6pm for all eight days of the festival. Please join us! Our resources are strengthened by being together in community. With the turning of the year the dark days will soon turn towards greater light.
Wishing you all a Sweet and Peaceful Shabbat, and Chag Urim Sameach,