The holiday of Chanukah takes place during the darkest time of the year. It’s in the middle of the winter when there are many more hours of darkness than daylight. This has been a slow process as the days have been getting shorter and shorter since the High Holidays. This parallels and reflects the darkness that has filled our world since the horrors of October 7th, the last day of the High Holiday season, in ways few of us have ever experienced.
Historically, Chanukah took place during a time of spiritual darkness for the Jewish people as the Syrian Greeks made harsh decrees against Jewish observance and practice. The Torah is compared to light and its removal brought forth darkness and devastation for the Jewish nation. The Maccabees refused to sit idly by and accept this reality. They fought valiantly against an enemy that sought the destruction of the Jewish faith.
The war ultimately was won and the first thing that was done is the Menorah being lit in the Temple. Even though it was a great military victory, it is this lighting that we celebrate each and every year. In Judaism, war is never our ideal and only something we must do out of necessity. It is therefore not the focus of our annual celebration of Chanukah. It is our ability to bring light to darkness, maintain our scared traditions, and the victory of good versus evil that we celebrate every year.
War has been thrust upon the Jewish people once again by a brutal enemy who seeks our destruction. We never desired war, but Israel must do what is necessary to morally defend the Jewish people, our land, and our way of life like the Maccabees of old. We must stand firmly with Israel in this fight. When we light the Chanukah candles, we are reminded what we are ultimately fighting for – a time where the light of good, Torah and peace can shine bright again. On this Chanukah, as we light the candles each night, we recommit ourselves to the plight of the Jewish people, praying that this light grows larger and larger pushing away the darkness of what we have experienced the past couple of months. As we light the candles, we bring forth our unique light to Israel and the world, spreading kindness, peace, and unity.
When the world was created there was only darkness and chaos and God said, “Let there be Light”. We are all now experiencing darkness and chaos. This Chanukah in the spirit of Imitatio Dei we declare to the world, “Let there be Light!”
Adam Starr is the senior rabbi at Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Toco Hills.