The 8th – and final – day of Hanukkah is also known as “Zot Hanukkah“, literally, “This is Hanukkah (dedication)”.
The “simple” explanation for this special name for the last day of the holiday is that the Torah reading for the 8th day of Hanukkah sums up all the gifts that the Tribal Leaders brought by emphatically announcing: “ZOT CHANUKAT HA-MIZBEI’ACH” (this is the dedication of the alter).
I’ve read many mystical and deep explanations about what “Zot Hanukkah” means, but the one I like best is from “the singing Rabbi”, Shlomo Carlebach:
“Zot” means something is clear (as if you could point to it with your finger, and say: “THIS” is Hanukkah)….I kindle Hanukkah lights at night, when it’s dark and everything is wrong. There is no light. Suddenly, I light Hanukkah lights and it becomes clear to me that I have the greatest lights in the world: my Jewish soul, my Jewish family, my Jewish Nation and Land, and once (and in the future, again) my Jewish Temple” – (from “The Soul of Hanukkah”, Teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach)
For the last 11 months I have been working at World WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) as the Head of English Content in the Publicity and Communications Division. But when I ask myself (or when others ask me), “What is WIZO?” is there one concrete thing I can point to a say “Zeh WIZO!” (This is WIZO!)?
Maybe I need to start with the youngest ones in WIZO’s care, the adorable children in WIZO’s 182 day care centers across Israel. For nearly a century, WIZO has provided, and continues to provide, excellent childcare and the best education for babies and toddlers with a special emphasis on changing the lives of children at risk. At the same time, these centers strengthen Israeli society by enabling more young parents to enter the workforce, especially women, while creating a leading, affordable and universal education system that ensures that each child will have equal opportunities. That’s WIZO!
Or maybe I should focus on the youth, the thousands of students who live and are educated in WIZO’s schools and youth villages across the country. These WIZO schools close educational gaps between disadvantaged children and those from stable homes, and ensure that no child falls between the cracks. At the same time, they nurture the natural talents of each youth and guide them in using these talents to build a career and a more promising future. And perhaps most importantly, they instill a sense of personal and national pride in each youth and create responsible, giving citizens. That’s WIZO!
But perhaps WIZO is “women“. Since its inception, the women of WIZO have stood for women’s rights and helped women in all echelons of society. Adapting to emergent needs, WIZO’s social efforts today specifically target women living with violence, single mothers and teenage girls at risk all while developing young vibrant social women leaders. Aha! Women – that’s WIZO!
Of course, the answer to “What is WIZO?” is all of the above – and more! You can’t put your finger on just one thing and say “that’s WIZO” because there are so many different things that are WIZO.
But maybe there is one thing we can all put our finger on. The last day of Hanukkah is when all eight candles (lights) are lit. Throughout the week of Hanukkah we have been building up slowly, day by day, to this very moment. When we all work together, we all burn brightly and form a great light.
As the popular Hebrew Hanukkah songs says,
“kol echad hu ohr katan“, each of us is a small flame
v’kulanu ohr eitan“, but together we are a bright light.
So, working together to achieve a common goal to bring light to the world
Zot Hanukkah – and Zeh WIZO!