General Jewish Spirituality Rabbinic spirituality

Willing the Light to Brighten

Chanukkah, which begins this evening, is the festival of lights. We celebrate by lighting a candlabra each of the eight nights of the holiday, adding a candle each night.

Tonight as we light the first candle, the moon is waning, almost vanished. When the holiday ends, the moon will be waxing, becoming ever brighter. We, however, lighting the increasing number of candles assert the that the victory of hope over fears.

This year, more than most, we balance between hope and fear. Will the coming year bring prosperity and light, or despair and darkness? Lighting the candles, even as the moon disappears, even as the sun shines a little less each day, we assert that the light will return.

Chanukkah is, primarily, a holiday of the triumph of hope. The triumph over long odds. The victory of hope despite our fears.

May this holiday of light restore hope to all those in darkness, light to all in fear.

Jewish Spirituality

Eating the Chanukah Candles

As I was on my way into CubeSpace this morning, I stopped and gathered up some Chanukah supplies: a Chanukah Menorah and a box of candles. My goal was to enable us to light the Chanukah candles this evening at CubeSpace. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that the box of Chanukah candles I first grabbed informed me that they were “kosher.”

Now, kosher means “ritually appropriate.” But, in all honesty, there just aren’t that many ways to disqualify Chanukah candles. They don’t need to be made with any special intentionality. It’s not like they can only be made with certain substances. They’re  candles.  Which brings me to my second supposition:The manufacturer of these candles thinks we’re likely to be eating them.

At first glance, this seems truly absurd, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Chanukah celebrates a miracle of oil burning in the menorah at the temple for eight days when it should have been exhausted in one. Therefore there are two main observances: lighting candles (in commemoration of the menorah that burned longer than it should have) and eating oily food (in commemoration of the oil in the menorah). Now, normally the oily foods are deep fried potato pancakes (latkes) or jelly doughnuts (suvganiyot). But, for those who really want to commemorate it  right, you could combine the oil and the light, and just eat the candles themselves. I think this must be what the package of candles I picked up this morning was suggesting. Candles, after all, are fundamentally, solidified oil. So you get the candle and the oil, all in one.

For this year, I will pass on this tradition. But in the words of Franz Rosenzwieg, I choose to say that  I do “not yet” observe this mitzvah.