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Happy Chanukah

Friday, 8 December, 2023 - 6:51 am

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First of all, Happy Chanuka!

Last night the first lights of Chanuka were kindled across the world.

In private homes, in public spaces and outside in the most prominent squares and streets of the world. And more celebrations and public lightings will be held throughout the eight days of Chanuka. Click here for some pictures.

Our Bangkok community party is on Monday night at the Rembrandt hotel. During the rest of Chanuka we have Chanukah lightings across Thailand as per this link.

The miracle of Chanuka is several-fold.

The vastly outnumbered Maccabees won the war against the mightier Greek army.

While the Greeks had tried their hardest to rid the Temple of any ritually pure ‘tahor’ olive oil, the Maccabees found one flask that had miraculously escaped their desecration.

The oil contained in that flask sufficed for one night. It burned miraculously for eight days straight.

Let us unpack the message that the lights of the menorah proclaim. In simple byte size form.

First message:

The Maccabees were righteous and good. The Greeks were dictatorial, immoral, and evil.

G-d made a miracle.

The good guys won over the bad guys.

The message couldn’t be clearer.

‘When the going gets tough’ and it looks like the bad guys are stronger and the majority, don’t give up. Keep on resisting. Hashem made miracles in the past and He will make miracles for those who follow in the path of goodness, kindness and morality.

Chanuka reminds us that the forces of light will overpower the gangs of evil.

Second message:

The Maccabees searched for oil even though it looked like there was no pure oil.

G-d made a miracle and they indeed found one jug of oil.

The takeaway is simple.

Hashem waits for our efforts, sincere and sometimes strenuous efforts, before He blesses us with His miraculous input.

Don’t give up trying to do the right thing.

Try harder.

Third message:

The Maccabees lit up the Menorah although they assumed it would only remain lit for one day, and once the oil finished, for the next seven days it would remain unlit. Rather than saying let’s wait till we can do it perfectly, they went ahead and did what they could.

You can’t get anywhere without that first step.

For now, it may only be a very small flame, a glimmer of light.

Tomorrow it will grow and become a twosome. And then a threesome until before long, with consistent growth, it becomes a fully kindled eight candle Menorah.

The beginning is always more difficult.

And that’s why the beginning is always more powerful.

It doesn’t have to be a massive or perfect accomplishment.

Just do what you can do right now.

While the headlines of most newspapers broadcast all the dark things going on in the world, the violence, suffering and injustice, on Chanuka we have a mitzvah to do a different kind of PR. To make waves and headlines that have the farthest reach possible through kindling lights.

Peaceful lights that signify warmth and kindness.

The miracles of Chanuka provide hope and inspiration to the Jewish people and we share it with all of humankind.

What could be more positive and enlightening than kindling lights to dispel darkness and spreading the message of positivity as virally and outwardly as possible?

This is why I was stunned to receive a voice note from someone who is usually quite ‘outward’ that went something like this.

‘I know it’s not my place and maybe I shouldn’t be telling you… but still I am going to tell you,

I don’t get the point or understand the publicity of Chanukah

Especially during difficult days like this

Why do we have to do our ‘religious ritual’ outside, in the presence of others who are not connected to it at all.

It’s fun and nice to do it in your house or in my house,

Why do we have to take it outside to the streets,

I have heard from other friends as well , they don’t understand why we are going out to kindle the menorah in the streets

The Muslims have their mosque, the Christians have their church we have our Synagogue,

Why should we go outside and to it in the presence of everyone

I don’t understand the concept, especially during these turbulent times.

I want you to consider it again as it really angers me to see things being done like this,

Phew, its off my chest, I’ve shared my feelings with you,

Bye,

Before I share the Torah’s perspective on the publicity of Chanuka, let me first make an important and timely point. Safety is paramount. One must follow the security instructions as they pertain individually in each locale. Any outdoor or public celebration must be sanctioned by the security experts.

I realized that the person who sent me the note, saw Chanuka as a ‘ritual’ that is tribal or ethnic and therefore belongs only in the private space of a Jewish home or Synagogue. They mistakenly assumed that the public celebration of Chanuka was a recent and unnecessary addition to the mitzvah. Maybe it was intended as a PR stunt.

Interestingly, celebrating Chanuka in public is an intrinsic part of the mitzvah of Chanukafrom its very inception. The Sages who initiated the holiday of Chanuka instructed that the Menorah be lit in the doorway or in the window. It is intended to be a mitzvah that spreads the awareness of the miracles that Hashem made.

Now more than ever before it is important to be public about Chanukah (while preserving safety).

The Jewish people is in a state of soul searching.

There is the awakening of those who had been so alienated from Judaism for so long and yet feel their deepest Jewish feelings stirring at this time in the most unexpected way.

Especially for all of us Jewish communities living around the world.

There are those who live with the fear of the resurgence of antisemitism around the world.

No one is unaffected.

Questions abound about how to move forward.

Do we hide and cower away in fear. Or do we joyously and proudly march forward raising the banner of our Judaism with confidence.

One thing is clear. We learned this lesson from the Holocaust.

Hiding away in the shadows hoping that ‘they’ won’t see us does not work. Thinking that we will prevent antisemitism by staying away from doing positive things in public, doesn’t work. Antisemitism and prejudice require no outside causes.

Kindling menorahs in public has proved to be a major source of reconnection for Jews who have not felt so connected.

As to the statement it makes to our non-Jewish neighbors?

We are blessed to live in an era when for the most part ‘Non-Jews respect Jews who respect their Judaism’.

We need to be proud of being Jews.

As Jews, we have a mission. We need to represent G-d and proclaim to the world that Hashem made miracles during the Chanukah time and makes miracles now as well and will make miracles in the future.

Kindling the Menorah is a mitzvah that spreads and engenders positivity and optimism about creating a better world.

Spreading the message of light over darkness has never been so critically vital.

In short, I would sum it up:

Chanuka reminds and empowers us that G-d empowers good people to be victorious over evil.

No matter how unlikely it seems, fight valiantly to follow the moral path as taught by G-d. Don’t wait for perfection. Do what you can do now.  

Kindling the lights of the Menorah symbolizes the power of light over darkness and morality over immorality.

Light the Menorah as publicly as possible for when every citizen of the world embraces this message, it will leave no room for darkness in our world.

We pray for the BIG miracle, the ushering in of everlasting global peace with the coming of Mashiach.

And we pray that even before that ‘grand finale’ miracle happens, we have the ‘smaller’ miracles of our soldiers coming home (having achieved secure peace) in complete health, return of our captives, healing of our sick and good physical, emotional and spiritual health for all.

This year don’t stand on the sidelines. Each and every one of us must participate. No one is indispensable.

LIGHT UP YOUR HOME AND YOUR CORNER OF THE WORLD.

Kindle a Menorah. Empower yourself, your family and your environment to join the forces of good and together we will make this world a more G-dly, kindly, goodly and peaceful place.

Shabbat Shalom

Chanuka Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS click here for everything Chanuka

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