We are all fatigued, drained, and in need of renewal. Personally, I have “Zoomed” into a number of webinars over the past months about “resilience” – personal resilience, resilience as a rabbi, resilience of synagogues, resilience as a parent. It is always helpful to convene with people who are dealing with similar angst and fatigue, and to share ideas and inspiration.
That is why I am looking forward to Hanukkah this year. It is Eight Days of renewal, comfort, and connection. Of course, the story itself is about resilience:
The Maccabees fight over three years for their freedom against the great Assyrian army – and win.
The special oil for the Menorah was supposed to last for one day – but instead it continued burning for eight.
Kindling lights amidst the darkness can take courage and hope, even when we might feel depleted.
We add a candle each night, increasing the light as we go, creating a sense of hope and great beauty.
Hanukkah is also about knowing that however small or weak we feel in the face of darkness, we cannot give up.
Resilience, I believe, can be cultivated in at least two ways. We need to nurture our own physical and spiritual selves. We also need to do acts of kindness – gemilut hassidim – for others.
Such acts help the other person, but they also help us feel better. Celebrating Hanukkah enables us to do both of these things at once.
Bring mindfulness to lighting the candles. Turn off the news, stop checking your email. Sit with the candles as they burn, and notice how beautiful they are as they dance and flicker!
Notice how that light affects you – what do you feel? If you have kids or grandkids around do the same (even if it is over Zoom) – and be present with the light as you play dreidel, sing, eat, or reflect on the meaning of the holiday. Enable the light to nurture your soul.
Each night, focus on enduring values such as hope, peace, gratitude, kindness, freedom, justice, and caring for the earth and all creatures. What actions might go along with each value? Reach out to someone who may be feeling lonely. Run an errand for a neighbor. Send a thank you note to doctors, nurses, teachers and others working hard in the face of danger and enormous challenges. Contribute to organizations who embody these values in honor of friends and family instead of purchasing material gifts for them.
And finally, join in Hanukkah celebrations and programs being offered by congregations and other Jewish organizations. You can go to a Hanukkah concert taking place in another state while sitting in your living room! We all need to connect with each other as we celebrate this holiday.
May you and your family be blessed with health and well-being, with increasing hope and light, and with the ability to continue on with courage and strength. May we bring more light into this world, and may the vaccine come soon to all!
Rabbi Alison Adler is the spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly.