Some ancient rabbis believed that we should begin Hanukkah with all the eight candles ablaze with glory, and then light one fewer each night following. That idea was rejected by the majority of the sages, who voted to take the opposite approach; to begin with a single flame on the first night, and then increase the light each successive evening. Why was that the custom that prevailed? It is because we should seek to raise ourselves up in holiness and stir the embers of hope within our hearts. The multiplying lights of the menorah are meant to remind us that we should never underestimate our ability to bring blessing into the world, to brighten the lives of others, and to raise our own spirits through positive thoughts and actions. The Hanukkah menorah is a vivid symbol of our ability to kindle and keep the lights of hope burning bright in the darkest of times.
While we are still in the midst of the pandemic, and as we seek to recover from a divisive political ordeal, we need light to show us the way forward. We need our community, our families, and friends to seek comfort in the traditions that have long sustained us. With Thanksgiving behind us and Hanukkah rapidly approaching, we continue to embrace opportunities to nurture our sense of gratitude and to express our thanks for the blessings in our lives with positive acts of kindness, caring, and generosity.
A time-honored prayer implores God to protect and guide us with these words:
O Guardian of Life and Liberty,
May our nation always merit Your protection.
Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those in need.
Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth.
May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have died in defense of our ideals.
Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance.
May they govern with justice and compassion.
Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You.
May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit.
With prayers for healing and strength, and wishes for a Hanukkah filled with light and joy and hope and intimate celebrations,
Rabbi David Kudan leads Temple Tiferet Shalom in Peabody.