The economy, both at home and in most of the developed world, is still shaky. Most of us still wonder exactly how close we came to another Great Depression, and some are still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It feels that with every passing day of the last decade, our personal lives, like the Hanukkah top known as a dreidel, spin faster and faster. That’s the world of Hanukkah 2010, a world that needs Hanukkah and the opportunity it provides ─ to remember, reconnect, and renew.
This is not a Jewish thing, anymore than the world needing the beauty and promise of the Christmas story, even though we are not all Christian and will not all agree about the theological meaning of that story. This is about an ancient holiday which promises ways of helping us through turbulent times.
On Hanukkah we remember that we have it within us to play the game of life as much as the game plays us.We reconnect to the source of that ability, wherever we may find it.
Hanukkah is a time of heroes, of people who made miracles happen and no matter what the cynic may say, heroism is not dead and there really are still heroes in our world.
In fact, today’s real heroes may be much closer than we realize. They may even be staring back at us when we look in the mirror. And that’s where the story of Hanukkah comes in.
Most of us, Jewish or not, have some knowledge of the story of brave, strong Judah Maccabee fighting to liberate the Temple in Jerusalem. But do we recall that he was a small town boy with few material or institutional resources at his disposal when he began his career? In all likelihood there was little special about Judah and his family until circumstance and their own determination presented them with a challenge which they saw as an opportunity.
In a culture that too often substitutes celebrity for heroism, and cynicism for sophistication, we need to recall that part of the story, also. It's the part that reminds us that everyone is already a hero, or at least has the capacity to be one.
Each of us, according to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, is a living Hanukkah candle capable of spreading our own inner light in the world and living a story of heroism by doing so. Each of us can live our most deeply held values in ways that not only improve our own lives, but contribute to the lives of those with whom we live and work.
Rabbi Kook knows that true heroism begins with a sense of our own capacity and the need to resist the urge to minimize either it, or the obligation to rise up and make use of it in the best way we can.
What do we have in common with Judah Maccabee? A potential for heroism. In an age when people question whether there really are heroes anymore, Hanukkah reminds us that there are always heroes and we are they -- if we give ourselves permission.
I think its a powerful message that is applies to all of us. We often forget the true meaning of the holidays we celebrate as it gets lost in the lights, parties and shopping sprees but as the Rabbi points out, the meaning of these holidays grow more and more important as time marches on. His message may cliché but the point is worth repeating. The lessons embedded in these holidays will help us overcome the challenges that will come in the new year and we would be foolish to ignore them.
He also makes a powerful point about heroes which goes does has a strong relationship to why we forget the true meaning of significant holidays. We often celebrate the superficial at the expense of the significant. We grant rock stars, actors and actresses, sports figures and politician high status in our society while the true heroes fade into obscurity. When tough times hit, we don't look to rock stars, actors and actresses, sports figures and politician for moral and spiritual leadership. We may look to them as a means to escape our daily troubles but they will be in the same boat as the rest of us when the tough times come. True heroes provide leadership, guidance, support and safety in good times as well as bad. But they're extremely valuable, yet always in short supply, when the hard times come. Just as we need to remember the true meaning of the holidays, we need to remember the real heroes.
I believe it is possible to balance the fun and seriousness that comes with these holidays. We can remember the lessons of these festive times and reflect on them in our private moments. We can also enjoy the company of people that we cherish in our lives. We can also enjoy the more flashy and festive parts of the holidays as well. Just don't ever lose sight of the meaning in the fun.
Speaking of finding joy in Hanukkah, I figured it would be fun to post all the awesome songs about Hanukkah for you to enjoy: