Happy Chanukah to all! In Israel, the popular greeting for Chanukah is just a little bit different than the English greeting “Happy Chanukah” or the Yiddish “A Freilachn Chanukah.” The Hebrew greeting for Chanukah is “Chag Urim Sameach,” a happy festival of lights. This greeting focuses on Chanukah as the festival of lights. It reminds us of the miracle of the Menorah, which was supposed to last for one day but instead shed its light for a full eight days. It also reminds us that as Jews, our role is to bring blessing and light into the world. The Chanukah menorah symbolically shows us that the way to dispel darkness is to kindle the lights. A little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. As I write these words, more and more darkness is coming into the world. The world is awash with brutality and with the plight of thousands upon thousands who are seeking to escape. Many of us, especially our young people, are gripped with feelings of danger and foreboding. Some of our teenagers have asked “Is it safe to travel on the subway or go to a concert?” I believe it is, but who of us can really be sure. We have to find a way to fight sadness anxiety and despair. Chanukah points the way. It tells us to light lights both literally and figuratively. It asks us to gather around the table, light the candles and celebrate. Performing the rituals our ancestors have observed in times far worse than ours should give us comfort. It also asks us to kindle the lights of kindness, generosity, and involvement. There is so much we can do to bring joy and beauty into the world. It may be providing a hot meal for a disabled neighbor or personally helping someone in need. It may be in the cultural realm through, the arts and music. It can be in the context of our personal lives, the synagogue and Jewish community. It can be also through the many groups and organizations in our community that devote themselves to good works, including the Staten Island COJO and its’ food pantry that operates in our building. We will not solve the world’s problem but we will be able to bring joy into many lives making for a stronger community better able to resist the hatred and divisiveness we see around us. Chag Urim Sameach,
Rabbi Gerald Sussman
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