Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, recalls the victory 2,153 years ago of a militarily weak, but spiritually strong Jewish people over the mighty forces of a ruthless enemy that had overrun the Holy Land and threatened to engulf the land and its people in darkness.
The miraculous victory — culminating in the dedication of the Sanctuary in Jerusalem and the rekindling of the Menorah, which had been desecrated and extinguished by the enemy – has been celebrated annually ever since, especially by lighting the menorah — also as a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter and of light over darkness.
Because the forces of darkness are ever present, the Chanukah message is timely and reassuring. In fact, often, the danger does not come exclusively from outside. It lurks close to home, in the form of insidious erosion of time-honored values and principles that are at the foundation of any decent human society. Needless to say, darkness cannot be chased or swept away, illumination is the only remedy. Our sages say, “A little light expels a lot of darkness.” The yearly Chanukah Lights remind us in a most obvious way that illumination begins at home, within oneself and one’s family, by increasing and intensifying the light of goodness and kindness in the everyday experience. Always increasing, as the Chanukah Lights are kindled in growing numbers from day to day. And though it begins at home, it does not stop there. The Chanukah Lights are expressly meant to illuminate the “outside,” symbolically alluding to the duty to bring light also to those who, for one reason or another, still walk in darkness.
It is in this spirit that we pray that the message of the lights will illuminate the everyday life of everyone personally, and of the society at large, for a brighter life in every respect, both materially and spiritually.