We will begin lighting the candles in my home tonight. The hanukkiyah we use is one I purchased many years ago; it’s a beautiful silver tree of life with nine branches. I have always been a lover of Judaism - its worship, liturgy, prayers and blessings. In fact, when I was in seminary, oh so many years ago, I frequently attended services at Temple Emmanu-el here in Dallas. Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman captivated the hearts of all who heard him; he was a brilliant preacher and scholar. At that time, Rabbi Zimmerman was the finest preacher in Dallas, and he filled my heart with wonder and challenged my thinking.
So, how did this wonderful ritual, the festival of light, come to be? Centuries ago, the Holy Land was under Syrian-Greek rule, and the people of Israel were being forced to adapt to the occupying culture. A small band of faithful Jews fought against and defeated the Syrian-Greek army. They reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem, and when they went in to light the Temple’s menorah, they found a supply of oil that would be sufficient for only one day. The miracle that is celebrated at Hanukkah is that the day’s worth of oil burned for eight days.
So, what meaning does this ancient celebration have for us today? It calls us to remember, to remember the small “miracles” that help sustain us during times when we’ve lost hope. It may be the comfort of a friend when we’re ill, the handwritten notecard which arrives in the mail reminding us that we are held in love & prayer by another, the miracle of a new day, a lovely walk in nature filling us with gratitude for the gift of the creation, or simply the mindful remembrance of our mysterious and wonderful bodies – our breath, our senses, our emotions and thoughts, and our capacity to continue to be enlightened day after day. Hanukkah reminds that when things seem impossible, we need to pause, stop, listen and look for the “miracles” surround us everyday.