Home > Blog > Clergy > Finding Deeper Meaning in Hanukkah
At each of our nightly virtual Community Candle Lightings, our clergy will offer some “spiritual gelt” and highlight one of the many Jewish values (middot). We hope these middot will bring additional light and meaning to your Hanukkah celebration and look forward to seeing you on Zoom.
1st Night: Enhancing the Mitzvah (Hiddur Mitzvah)
2nd Night: Repairing the World (Tikkun Olam)
3rd Night: Showing Appreciation (Hakarat HaTov)
4th Night: Courage and Strength (G’vurah)
5th Night: Education and Dedication (Hinuch)
6th Night: Giving (Tzedakah)
7th Night: Faith (Emunah)
8th Night: Jewish Pride (Am Yisrael Chai)
Exodus 15:2 states, “This is my God and I will glorify God.”
“Is it possible for a human being to add glory to his Creator? What this really means is: I shall glorify God in the way I perform mitzvot. I shall prepare before God a beautiful, beautiful sukkah, beautiful fringes (tzitzit), and beautiful phylacteries (Tefillin).” [Rabbi Ishmael’s comment, Mechilta, Shirata, chapter 3, ed. Lauterbach, p. 25.]
The [Shabbat 133b] adds to this list a beautiful Shofar and a beautiful scroll which has been written by a skilled scribe with fine ink and fine pen and wrapped in beautiful silks.
Ideas to practice Hiddur Mitzvah for the 24-hour period:
1. Take notice of the world that exists around you. Make a list, mental or written, of 8 beautiful things you see, be it in creation, your home, or your loved ones and friends whom you are seeing regularly.
2. Beauty enhances the mitzvot through the senses. Consider ways that you can heighten information you obtain through your senses. Perhaps using a new spice in your cooking to bring a new flavor to your palate, displaying flowers in your home for additional beauty, boiling cloves and cinnamon on the stove for added fragrance or using your most ornate ritual objects for Shabbat and Hanukkah. Use this as an opportunity to exist in the world through your all of your senses.
The Aleinu prayer reminds us that each of us is obligated to work as God’s partners in repairing the world. We join together in dedicating ourselves to the task of making our world whole.
by Judy Chicago
And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both men and women will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to another’s will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the earth’s abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will cherish life’s creatures
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the earth
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.
Ideas to practice Tikkun Olam:
1. There are many ways we can make this world a better place. Consider using this holiday of light and time of giving as the impetus for bringing light into this world. While donating our time is difficult in this time period, giving donations (monetary, clothing, food) is still a wonderful act of tzedakah we can fulfil.
2. Taking care of our environment is essential to making sure that our world will sustain a diversity of life. If you take a shabbas walk, consider taking gloves and trash bags with you to pick up trash along our road ways, sidewalks and rivers.
On Hanukkah we recite a prayer of gratitude for the miracles God wrought for us during the time of the Hasmoneans. This prayer, Al Hanissim, includes the following text:
You, in Your enormous mercy, stood up for them in their time of great need, upheld their cause, judged their case, and avenged their oppressors. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few… And afterward, Your children came to the Holy of Holies in Your House, and they cleansed Your Palace and purified Your Temple and they kindled lights in the courtyard of Your Sanctuary and they established these eight days of Hanukkah to give thanks and to praise Your great name
Ideas to practice HaKarat HaTov for the 24-hour period:
“I give thanks before you, Adonai my God, for You have returned within me my soul with compassion; abundant is Your faithfulness!”
For 10 months, we have been living under stressful and complicated circumstances. Our lives were turned upside down overnight. It has taken all of our strength and courage to live fully under these circumstances.
In Psalm 112 we read in verses 1 and 4:
Happy is the one who fears of Adonai. God’s commands are keen desires. Light dawns in darkness for the upright, gracious and merciful and just.
Rabbi Yael Levy modifies the translation to read:
Fulfilled is a person who lives in awe, who deeply desires connection. For him, lights shine in darkness, lights of grace, compassion and justice.
We are reminded through this psalm that to bring light to the darkness, we must be gracious, compassionate and just in all of our interactions.
Ideas to practice G’vurah for the 24-hour period:
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote in his Haggadah,
“Education means teaching a child to be curious, to wonder, to reflect, to enquire. The child who asks becomes a partner in the learning process, an active recipient. To ask is to grow. ”
As a Jew, we are lifelong learnings, always asking, always growing.
Ideas to practice Chinuch for the 24-hour period:
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote on Tzedakah,
“Giving to others is one of the most beautiful things we can do, and one of the most creative. We create possibilities for other people. We soften some of the rough edges of the world. We help alleviate poverty and pain. We give God the sacrifice God most desires of us: that we honor God’s image in other people.”
Ideas to practice Tzedakah for the 24-hour period:
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote in Celebrating Life,
“Emunah means that I take your hand and you take mine and we walk together across the unknown country called the future. It is what I call a covenantal relationship. That is our relationship with God. It is also the relationship of marriage.”
Ideas to practice Emunah for the 24-hour period:
Albert Einstein wrote,
“There are two ways to live. You can live as if nothing is a miracle. You can live as if everything is a miracle.”
Ideas to practice Am Yisrael Chai:
Rabbi Susan Shankman has been a Rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation for more than 20 years. In addition to officiating services, life cycle events and pastoral care and counseling, Rabbi Shankman coordinates the Confirmation program, works closely with the Women of WHC, focuses on programming for families with young children, outreach t...
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