a covid-19 chanukah message

© Judah Lifschitz 2020

Tonight, as I light the Chanukah menorah for the first of eight nights, the eternal message of the Chanukah holiday will be especially meaningful and powerful.

Unlike other holidays on the Jewish calendar which are biblically ordained, Chanukah is a rabbinically established holiday which commemorates the victory, against all odds, of the Maccabees against their Greek rulers and oppressors. After their victory, the Macabees returned to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and sanctified it anew after it had been defiled by the Greeks. When they went to light the menorah, they could find but one flask of pure undefiled oil sufficient for only one day. Miraculously, that one flask of oil lasted a full eight days until pure oil was able to be processed. We light the Chanukah menorah each night of the eight days of Chanukah to commemorate this miracle.

Our tradition teaches us, however, that there is a much deeper meaning to the holiday and the lighting of the menorah. Biblically the Jewish holidays are either in the fall or in the spring. Winter, the season of short days and long nights, frigid temperatures, snow and ice has no biblical holidays, no times for joyous celebration, no bright spots. It is long, dark, cold, and dreary time of the year. That is until the rabbis, divinely inspired, established the eternal holiday of Chanukah; the holiday that lightens the darkness , warms our hearts, and raises our spirits.

Winter is a metaphor for the difficult periods in one’s life when all seems dark and hopeless, when despair is plentiful and hope is scarce. Chanukah reminds us that even in one’s darkest and most difficult moments there is light, there is hope, there is a bright future which lies ahead.

How appropriate this message is in this year of the pandemic. And how uplifting it should be for us all that literally on the eve of Chanukah the first Covid-19 vaccinations are beginning to be distributed and administered. A heavenly voice is speaking to us. “There is hope. There will be an end to the pandemic. There is light at the end of the Covid-19 winter.”

Happy Chanukah to all.

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