Hanukkah: A time to celebrate renewable energy

That one flask of oil reduced the Temple menorah's fuel use by 87%. If we can match that for today's fuel consumption, we just might save the world
Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the suns sets, near Emmett, Kansas, September 18, 2021. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the suns sets, near Emmett, Kansas, September 18, 2021. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

If there was ever a holiday to elevate renewable energy one need look no further than Hanukah.

The winter holiday of Hanukkah is a minor holiday on the crowded Jewish calendar. Hanukah commemorates a guerrilla military victory against religious oppression. But there is more than meets the eye in the lighting of eight little candles on a holiday menorah. The miraculous legend that accompanies the victory of a small band of soldiers over the Greek/Seleucids, who deployed elephants like Sherman tanks, is what sparks the lighting of candles for eight nights. The Maccabees captured back the sacred Jerusalem Temple. To rededicate the holy space, they must light the golden menorah. The priests can find only one vial of sanctified olive oil and it should last for only one day. And yet, that one vial miraculously lasts for eight days. Behold! This clean, renewable olive oil produces an 87 percent reduction in the use of fuel by the Temple menorah.

At this time, when we are facing a catastrophe caused by use of fossil fuels that are driving climate change, could there be an ancient holiday more inspiring than Hanukah? In just the last year, scientists have issued a slew of reports confirming the urgency of taking action to protect us from climate change. COP26, the IPCC report, and the National Climate Assessment all agree that fossil fuels must stay in the ground to relieve our atmosphere of the greenhouse gases our addiction to coal, natural gas, and dirty oil have accumulated above our heads. An 87% reduction in fuel consumption over the next eight years would certainly be a modern-day miracle. But if we put our hearts, minds and actions behind it, it is possible.

Governments on all levels must encourage renewables in the most aggressive way and shut down the pipeline of subsidies to fossil fuels. Industry must shift its sources of energy. Agriculture must be supported in developing new regenerative methods. Transportation must go electric from clean fuel sources. Individuals must reduce their carbon footprint through a deep examination of what we purchase and what we throw into landfills and oceans.

We are already seeing the failure of infrastructure from extreme temperatures and amplified weather events in hurricanes, rains and floods, and wildfires. If we don’t take bold steps now, failing infrastructure, under the stress of ever-increasing temperatures from greenhouse gases will bring a day when all the lights will go out in this earthly temple we call home.

Big bold national legislation must be passed to fund these transformations at Apollo Mission speed. This is a peacetime war we must fight top down and bottom up if we are going to save our human civilization. Rest assured the planet will survive our degradation of the natural world. But it will not be a world we can survive, fragile as we are within a thin limit of temperature.

Congress is on the cusp of passing the Build Back Better Act. Funding allocated in this act will demonstrate our country’s commitment to a cleaner, more stable future and that our nation is serious about climate change. This bill has passed the House and is now headed to the Senate. Our senators need to hear that they must go big and bold if we are to provide a safe future for the next generations. If they already support that, congratulate them on their courage. If they don’t have the courage to support this legislation, we need to give them some.

Like other December holidays of light, Hanukkah rescues us from the depths of a dark winter in the northern hemisphere announcing the return of the sun’s strongest rays. We can celebrate a further miracle on Hanukkah — the human ability to capture the energy of the sun to improve human lives. Today, we have an opportunity to bring about another Hanukkah miracle. Contact your senators and urge them to vote for the Build Back Better Act.

About the Author
Rabbi Devorah Lynn is a community rabbi in Washington, DC, and is co-chairperson of Jewish Earth Alliance.
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