Chanukah always provides us with light as a method of celebrating the holiday and as a symbol. That this symbol is used over an eight-day period emphasizes the importance of light. The two ways of exhibiting the lights of Chanukah, as told in the Talmud, is that one can light one additional light each night until all eight lights are lit, which was advocated by Hillel; or one can start out with eight lights and eliminate one each night until there is only one on the last night, as advocated by Shammai. The Hillel approach prevailed, and so in present times, people generally add a light each night, creating greater light over the course of the eight nights.
The symbol of light shines through during our Chanukah celebration and every day, and has come to also represent truth and courage. Truth, the public-square version of light, is important to the lives of each person and in the life of the country. The current political climate has presented a challenge to truth. Finding truth — what are the facts; what is accurate — takes courage and forthrightness in today’s world. We must always be in search of the truth and hold it as a central premise of our democratic way of life.
May we use Chanukah and its symbol of light to remind us that, in our dealings with other individuals and with organizations and countries, we must lead by example in finding and advocating for the truth. That includes truthfulness in our personal relationships, in our business relationships, and in the public sphere.
Harold Kirtz is president of the Jewish Community Relations Council.