we lit the first candle with the shamash on sunday about a half hour after sundown. and then we lit the first candle on the left. our tiny menorah has a place of distinction on the table in our sunroom. the festival of lights began surrounded by tealights and happy lights and two people wanting to bring more light into the world’s hearts as well as our own. we honored my uncle tony’s family as we lit the candles, read blessings in mispronounced hebrew and sat and gazed silently at our simple newly-purchased menorah. beautiful. a celebration of the right to exist, i read. a time to remember courage, to bring divine light into inky, murky corners. we seek connection to the spiritual universe all around us in manners familiar and unfamiliar to us. on purpose, respectfully, with intention.
joshua davidson, a rabbi in new york city, spoke about his views of “the deep meaning of this year’s hanukkah”. with so much darkness and brokenness in this country he has chosen to ascribe meaning to each of the eight candles he will illumine – “the smallest bit of light to push back the darkness”. he includes: advocates of justice and fairness, black americans, women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants around the world, the aged, planet earth and our children.
the rabbi continued, “each of us will identify our own lights — on our menorahs, in our windows, or on our trees. however we celebrate, the act of kindling light can be, if we wish it, an act of illuminating the sparks burning in every human being and all created things. when we learn to look at the world and at others — no matter their color, their ethnicity, their gender, their age, their ability, their faith, their education, their wealth, or their politics — and recognize those sparks; and when we accept our responsibility to make them glow again; then we will have taken a first step toward kindling the light and restoring the hope that will heal our dark and fractured world.”
joshua wrote, “the shamash, the helper candle, will represent me — my power to become better in the new year; and through my own moral growth, my ability to spread light in the moral darkness that surrounds us.”
no matter our choice of religious or non-religious belief system, the black and white of it is that we all have the potential of the shamash. we are all light in the middle of twilight, luminous branches in the middle of darkness, in the middle of early-morning dawn, miraculous sparks of change and growth. it is a season of light.