Childhood innocence renewed my love of life when my son was young. Witnessing his delight in the world, his unguarded affection, his raw being alive, made me feel more alive. Now that he’s a young teen, innocence has been replaced with a growing skepticism of people, a lagging trust in good intentions. Though I’ve tried to protect him from man’s atrocities (gender intended!), he now studies current events at high school and reads the news online. I am no longer a filter of the world’s woes.
But humans for millennia have created rituals to help us renew faith in the world, in ourselves, in our families. In our society, these are the celebrations of Christmas and Hanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which both fall on December 24 this year. Of course, they were adopted from the northern hemisphere, when days are shortest at the end of December and light and sun are yearned for after a long winter. But we in the south carry on with the intention to create time to rest, to be with family, to be in nature, to renew hope.
Most New Zealanders aren’t familiar with Hanukah, so I would like to share what I’ve learned about a ritual that kindles hope. Hanukah commemorates the Maccabean victory over the Roman-sponsored attempt to destroy the Jewish Temple, from 169 to 166 BCE. The miracle of light refers to how the sacred temple oil, recovered from the remains of the battle, provided light for 8 nights, when it would have only been expected to last for one. Jewish families light a menorah of 8 candles, one each night, to remember how light emerged from the darkest time.
In some ways we are in very dark times now. We feel it. Our teens feel it.
Celebrating Hanukah ties us to Jews around the world, highlights the Jewish dedication to our religion and culture, and also offers a spiritual lesson. Rabbi Arthur Waskow teaches that the military conflict over the Temple can be interpreted today as a spiritual one: . . . “Hanukkah is the moment when light is born from darkness, hope from despair, we understand that the real conflict is . . . between apathy and hope, between a blind surrendering to darkness and an acting to light up new paths. By acknowledging the season of darkness, we know it is time to light the candles, to sow a seed of light that can sprout and spring forth later in the year.”
-Rabbi Arthur Waskow, is a Pathfinder of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
A beautiful lesson to teach our children.