Let’s go back to the origins
Let’s go back for a moment to the origins, to this time when, according to Torah, everything started. Adam and Eve have been expelled from the garden of Eden, and they are trying to understand how their life will look like from now on. They realize that the days are going shorter, that light becomes scarce, and they are terrified. Maybe the process of Creation is reversed, maybe after having disobeyed God, the Creator has decided to put an end to this experience? As the days grow shorter, Adam lights a candle, then a second, then a third. After the eighth, they realize that days are slowly getting longer, that light is slowly coming back. From now on, they decided, they will light eight candles each year to ensure that after the shortening of days, light will come back and conquer darkness.
That is, at least, how the Midrash has explained the reason why we are celebrating Chanukah each year. We know of another Rabbinic legend, the desecration of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Greeks, the finding of a jar of oil that would be sufficient only for one day and that actually lasted eight, and the rededication of the Temple on the eighth day as a dwelling place for God among us. We also know of the debate about how to light the candles: should we have eight candles the first day, seven the second, and so on, until the eighth day with one candle, or should we light one candle on the first day until eight on the eighth day? The Rabbis came up with a very powerful principle: one increases in holiness, and one does not decrease in holiness. In other words, it is our mission to add holiness in our lives, even when circumstances are against us.
Nothing lasts forever – this too shall pass
From times immemorial, human beings have noticed the two solstices, in winter, when days grow longer, and in summer, when they start to shorten. It has become an allegory for the eternal cycle of light and darkness, of life and death, and also a call to be forever hopeful. Nothing lasts forever, we can anticipate some low tide after having reached our peaks, but we can also expect that the wheel will turn. This past year has been an illustration of that cycle, and now that the vaccine is starting to be distributed, we can hope for more light in our lives.
The motto of 2020 is “This too shall pass!” We are fortunate, we have each other, our community is thriving, strong. And I am so privileged to be your Rabbi.