What is your favorite part about the celebration of Hanukkah? Is it the sound of the sizzling of latkes in oil, or the taste of that scrumptious first bite covered in sour cream or apple sauce? Is it the glow of flickering lights against the background of the dark evenings which descend upon us so early at this time of year, or trying your luck with the spin of the dreydl?
Whatever your favorite holiday activity, I’d like to invite you to explore each of Hanukkah’s rituals as an invitation – an invitation for us to practice, cultivate and reflect not on Hanukkah’s presents, but on our presence. While the sights and smells, and the tastes and tottering tops may help us take our minds off of work or stress, or off of whatever life’s current tzurres or hardship is, they also invite us to focus on the only moment that we can be mostly sure of, that is, the present.
Focusing on the present, simple and ordinary Hanukkah rituals or moments, can become potentially extraordinary. In becoming more than just fun, they motivate us for more. Beyond basking in the flickering flames, and enjoying the lingering taste of the oily latkes, Hanukkah is a time to dedicate or rededicate ourselves. The holiday is called “Hanukkah,” because that is the Hebrew word for “dedicating” or “rededicating” the ancient Temple and altar, which had been defiled. In the dimension of Jewish sacred time, Hanukkah is about the present, but it is also about our future. It invites us to reflect on the question, “What do I want to dedicate or rededicate myself to at this specific time, moment and point in the year?” If each of us identifies at least one good cause, task, habit, good deed, mitzvah, or practice, and works toward it, then we receive and share all of the Hanukkah presence that we need this year.
On Hanukkah each of has a personal pach shemen, a reservoir or container of oil, that is our spiritual fuel and energy for life. We may sometimes feel that it is only enough for one day, or even one hour. This Hanukah, as we focus on personal dedication/rededication, may our spiritual reservoir last for eight days and beyond, just as it did ba’yamim ha’hem u’vazman hazeh, from ancient times until today.
Hag Urim Sameach/Happy Festival of Lights,
Rabbi Mark Melamut