Menorah Lighting at Congregation Kehillath Israel
As many of you know, Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabees’ revolt against the Greek king Antiochus, who had erected an altar to Zeus in the temple in Jerusalem and banned the practice of Judaism in what is now Israel.
After the Maccabees had retaken Jerusalem, they rededicated the temple and discovered that there was only enough oil to last for one day. Miraculously, however, the oil lasted for eight days.
One of the main goals of lighting candles on Hanukkah is to publicize this miracle over the course of eight days and eight nights.
According to the Talmud, the ideal way to publicize the miracle of Hanukkah is to place lit candles outside your door, where they can be seen by anyone passing by, or to at least place them in a window that is visible to the public.
However, the same tradition holds that in times of danger, Jews can fulfill their obligation to publicize the miracle of Hanukkah by lighting candles inside the home and celebrating the miracle within their household.
This year, following Hamas’ horrific terrorist attack in Israel and the alarming surge of anti-Semitism in its wake, we find ourselves in a time of danger.
Sadly, many Jewish families around the world may feel that this year, instead of placing their Menorah where it is visible to the public, it is safer to celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah more privately.
I can certainly understand that feeling, and I hope that all Jewish people are able to celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah safely this season.
At the same time, I hope people will still choose to place their Menorah outside the door or in the window this year, where everyone can see it.
By publicizing the miracle of Hanukkah widely, as Jewish tradition teaches us to do, we say to each other and to the world that the Jewish people are resilient, that we belong, and that we will endure no matter what hardships we face.
This year, in particular, it is so important that we send that message. And that is exactly what we are doing at today’s Menorah lighting.
Thank you all for coming tonight to celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah.
Our public celebration affirms that Jewish people will endure in the face of terrorism and hate, just as we have since the time of the Maccabees and in the millennia since.