Hanukkah always falls around the winter solstice, when the days are at their shortest, and darkest. Not only that, but it always begins on the night of the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which is when the moon is in its final stages of waning. It’s not an accident that these dark days, when sun and moon provide the least light from the heavens, is when we observe a festival of lights.
Of course, these days of are normally illuminated with the light of gathering, with the glow of shared meals, food and drink, with the light brought to the faces of our loved ones by song and joy, and the delight of blessings and presents. For some, these days will feel profoundly dark, as a shadow hangs over our usual gatherings and celebrations.
Nevertheless, Hanukkah reminds us that when it is most dark is when light is about to be seen. We can look ahead from this holiday season to see inspiration, hope and light Even more so, we do not merely wait passively for the new light to dawn, for the sun and moon to shine. The Maccabees lit a small light, not knowing how long it would last. We cast our own light, starting with a shamash and one candle, and somehow manage to grow the light each night. Our tradition calls upon us to seek hope in dark times, and be bringers of light ourselves.
Joshua Heller is senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Torah, and spends a lot of time answering questions about Zoom.