Rabbi Hugo Gryn, of blessed memory, was a Holocaust survivor who lived through his teenage years in a concentration camp. On the eve of Hanukkah 1944, Hugo’s father took out a clay bowl, and placed in it a bit of string that had been soaked in the precious bit of butter that they had somehow been able to obtain.
Hugo protested to his father, that they should have eaten the butter, rather than burn it in a ceremony. But Hugo’s father responded, “You have seen that it is possible to live three weeks without food. Once we went three days without water. But you cannot live for even three minutes without hope.”
Indeed, the lights of Hanukkah are meant to inspire hope in those who see them. Even a single flame in a darkened room can shed enough light to transform the space and show a way forward.
Hope comes in many colors – like our cheerful Hanukkah candles. As we add to the lights on each night of the festival, let us lift up a new shade of hope, of inspiration, of illumination to help us find a way forward in our troubled world. The readings here are meant to be shared with young and old as we gather on each of the nights of Hanukkah. May these words remind each of us of the power we hold to bring light into the world, to inspire others, to brighten our homes, schools and workplaces. May each tiny flame encourage us to consider how each of us may respond to the challenge of Hanukkah – to rededicate ourselves to that which is most sacred and affirming in our lives. Wishing all a very joyous festival of lights.
Readings for the eight nights of Hanukkah:
First Night: This is the candle of home and of loving relationships. Let us give thanks for the light we shed on our family members and on our dear ones as we speak words of kindness and show appreciation to one another.
Second Night: This is the Candle of Torah. When we say, “Torah Orah,” we describe Torah as light, a symbol of knowledge. May this light encourage us to study and to be open to learning something new every day of our lives.
Third Night: This is the candle of liberty. The Maccabees fought for the right to practice our religion in freedom. May this light encourage us to hold fast to our traditions as we fight for the rights of all people and work toward an end to oppression and intolerance. As our Torah teaches, “you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land, and to all who dwell in it.”
Fourth Night: This is the candle of courage: We need strength to face the darkness around us, to be brave in meeting our personal challenges and to find the courage to overcome the obstacles that stand in our way. As Moses said to Joshua, “be strong and of good courage!”
Fifth Night: This is the candle of fairness. A good society must provide justice for all and treat each person with compassion. Our tradition teaches us to “seek justice and pursue it.” May we work to provide food, shelter and fair treatment to everyone.
Sixth Night: This the candle of faith. May the candles we light on this night renew our faith in our fellow human beings and in our ability to reveal sparks of God in every act of goodness.
Seventh Night: This is the candle of holiness. The Jewish people were commanded to be a holy people, and to be a light to all the nations of the world.
Eighth Night: This is the candle of Shalom. May these candles inspire us to create wholeness and healing in the world around us. May God’s light shine upon us and help us to bring blessings to our dear ones, to our community, and to our entire world.
Happy Festival of Lights – Chag Sameach! Θ
Rabbi David Kudan leads Congregation Ahavat Achim in Gloucester.