NOVEMBER 28, 2018 – One of the most essential commandments of Hanukkah is called pirsum haNes, the public proclamation of the miraculous events we celebrate on these days.
When possible, the menorah is placed in a window or elsewhere in the home so it can be seen from the outside. This custom is especially prevalent in Israel, where people hold public menorah-lighting ceremonies and the entire country is full of candles, bright with the celebration of the Festival of Lights.
It is about sharing the miracle with everybody. Hanukkah is about making all of us witnesses: in history, in collective memory and in acts of faith. It even calls out to the struggling Jew or the dormant Jew inside many of us, like flashing headlights waking our attention, reminding us to be proud of being part of this courageous, eternal people.
Greater than a longer-lasting jar of oil, and mightier than a successful war against all odds, the greatest miracle of Hanukkah is that it is still observed after thousands of years. The existence of the Jewish people today – to have survived against all odds and brutal opposition throughout time – is the greatest miracle we can witness today.
However, as citizens of the modern world, we hide our identity sometimes, most of the times, or at least are very cautious not to exhibit it so frequently in public. On Hanukkah, that pride and spirit is publicly shown, in an almost rebellious fashion, as if our inner Maccabee flashes his or her light and reminds everybody around that we are the bastions of the great legacy of being helpers in casting away the darkness from this world.
On Hanukkah, we are all High Priests and Priestesses, kindling our sacred menorahs and making each Jewish household the very own Temple in Jerusalem. By saying the Hanukkah blessings, we help bring purity and peace to the world. We show who we are. To have survived to this day, and that we persevere against the odds, against the enemies that rise in every generation, is the recurring miracle of Hanukkah. Each candle we kindle each night is a testimony to perseverance, to committing to our ideals and our tradition and collective memory, bringing light to the world in times of darkness.
The blessing of the candles for Hanukkah says: She asah nisim la-avoteinu ba-yamim ha-hem ba zman ha-ze, or, “Who performed miracles to our ancestors, on those days, in these times.” There lies the essence of Hanukkah. Those days and these times, those times and these days, they are the same times. May we become aware of the historical inspiration that these dates bring, and may we continue multiplying and publicizing the greatest miracle of all: our presence on this world.
Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez is the spiritual leader of Temple Sinai.