Bradley Shavit Artson
Rabbi. Philosopher. Author. Teacher.

Hanukkah Inspirations: Some Lessons from Hanukkah

These ancient lights celebrate Jewish wisdom, self-determination, religious freedom and resilience! (courtesy)
These ancient lights celebrate Jewish wisdom, self-determination, religious freedom and resilience! (courtesy)

1. The first flame is the bravest. Alone it risks taking on the darkness, knowing that it won’t be as solitary tomorrow. The light wins.

2. Second Night. Not yet a pattern, but now we have a direction: more light, less darkness. As we join together, we shine brighter, and our new movement reaches for its goal!

3. The 3rd Night moves us from one point to a line (connecting two points), to a field of three. No longer limited to “me” or “us two,” we arrive at “us all,” so we’re almost halfway there.

4. By the 4th night of Hanukkah, our flames illumine the room. From the smallest of beginnings, the candles tip the balance from darkness to light. Tonight, we celebrate the victory of the few over the many, the weak over the strong, the pure of heart over the corrupt. A small assembly, inspired by goodness, can overturn a cruel crowd. Count on it.

5. The 5th night. Whether it is the miracle of the holy oil that burned for 8 nights, or the miracle of the Maccabees resolve to liberate Israel to live by its faith, the light revealed continues to warm and to illumine an otherwise dark world.

6. Erev Shabbat: We amplify two ancient sources of lights — the Menorah of Hanukkah joins the candles of Shabbat/the Sabbath. Holiness adds to holiness, just as goodness inspires more goodness. Be the Light!

7. The 7th night is redolent with the holy number 7 (days of the week, the Sabbath day, the number of people called to bless the Torah). Almost complete, the effort must continue even beyond exhaustion, even if it seems assured. The task demands we stay the course, to follow through until the victory is complete.

8. 8th night of Hanukkah, the final night, offers a bonfire of giddy glee. Sometimes goodness wins, occasionally there is an unlikely victory for righteousness and freedom. Humanity lives on such moments, which deserve our notice and celebration!

About the Author
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is the Roslyn & Abner Goldstine Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of American Jewish University, and is the Dean of the Zacharias Frankel College of University of Potsdam, training Conservative/Masorti Rabbis for Europe.
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