26/27 November 2021, 22/23 Kislev 5782

Chanukah begins on Sunday. The festivals has two foci for me; dedication and seeing miracles. Chanukah means dedication, when we bless and establish hopes for our home we call it a Chanukat habayit.

Chanukah was a rededication of the second temple, put out of use for a while. For us generations past the temple the idea of dedicating ourselves afresh still carries weight and meaning. Chanukah may be a minor festival but it does invite us to rededicate ourselves to what matters most, what part of Jewish life has meaning and intention for us. What part of synagogue or our home needs and deserves attention? What will you be dedicated to?

The second part of Chanukah remembers miracles; she’asah ism l’avoteinu be’yamim ha-hem barman ha-zeh. Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those ancient days, at this time.

The first recounting of the Chanukah story didn’t even mention the miraculous oil lasting eight days, both Books of the Maccabees focus on military might and religious commitment. It was the Talmudic rabbis who added that gloss! But now for us how do we, in our intellectually charged Jewish way of life, make space for the miraculous? Perhaps it’s no longer the supernatural but it may be just as miraculous. As the poet and liturgist Marge Piercy wrote in The Hunger Moon;

We walk all over the common miracles
without bothering to wipe our feet.

As you like candles this year, a flame in the darkness, do bring these two ideas to your Chanukah. What miracles are you overlooking? What fresh energy might you bring about these two.

With warm wishes to you for a Shabbat Shalom,