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David November

Each candle ushering a new light into a depraved world

With celebrations canceled or muted, we will not be intimidated – the world needs every single light

This Hannukah, in the midst of one of the darker chapters of Jewish history, we chose to light all eight candles, displayed publicly, on this first night. As ceremonies are canceled or muted and festivals shuttered in some parts of the world, we will not be intimidated. The world needs every single light.

In no order, we light:

One for Jewish women. Love them and believe them.

Two for the hostages, those who are now “free” but who will surely endure psychological struggles that exist only in our nightmares, as well as those who continue to be debased in captivity, pawns in a game.

Three for our ancestors. We are 0.2 percent of the world population and our continued existence has never been assured. We hope we find ways to honor your memory, as you must seethe and shake in your way.

Four for Israelis: your pain is visceral and true even as it is denied. To those friends I know living in Israel, I think of you daily. You are loved.

Five for Palestinian civilians, refugees, children, and all yearners for peace of good faith. May the end of Hamas usher a new opportunity to coexist as neighbors.

Six for those clouded and confused, trying desperately to learn amidst propaganda and pontification. For those lifting up, not tearing down. For those searching for truth in the darkness. For those willing to say, “I don’t know everything and I never will, but I seek to understand. How can I help?”

Seven for Jews of the diaspora enduring the eternal and undeniable scourge of antisemitism while being told we are not. You are not alone. Non-Jews and non-Muslims, when we say we need you now, please know we don’t want to have to ask.

Eight for my son. A Thai Jewish adoptee who knows only love, whose survival was as much a miracle as that of the Jewish people themselves. For the Palestinian child who cries out for a world free of bombs and of suffering and of hatred. May a world exist where they can play in joy together in the garden, ushering a new light into this depraved world.

You will say I missed a candle. You will say “what about.” You will say I am complicit, my message too explicit or not enough, or my true intentions implicit or obfuscated behind the menorah’s glare. You will say I waited too long to discuss your preferred candle, that it is the wrong color, or that the wax of the others burns and melts away attention from the one you wish to illuminate. You will say you don’t know what to say, even as expressions of love are never wrong. You are free to say anything you like, with the understanding that people died both because of the words themselves and for your continued ability to use them.

But this is who I am. I am a thinker and a learner. I am a Jew. I am a father and a husband and a son. I am a human. I bleed and I cry, just as you. If you don’t want me at your future marches, I will find other ways to contribute to the causes I believed in far before Hamas started a war nobody wanted. If you want to minimize my people’s pain in order to lift up others because there is only so much love to spare, like the sacred and mythical Hannukah oil, I will continue finding ways to see your goodness anyway. If you feel your purpose is to minimize the experiences of Jewish women, we will hold them closer and love them more fiercely on our own.

I didn’t think I was the right person to deliver these words. Not a rabbi, politician, or thought leader. But here I stand anyway, exposed and vulnerable on this first night of Hannukah because I want my son to one day know what his father believed. What he was willing to fight for, far from the front lines. And what he said and did.

May light find you this Hannukah, and may the world come to know peace.

About the Author
I am a Philadelphia educator, husband, and the father of a five year-old Thai adoptee.
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