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Let there be light

12/03/2020 10:33:14 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I do not think it unintentional that there are holidays that celebrate light during the month of December. The amount of sunlight present in Pittsburgh during this month is roughly 9.5 hours, meaning that there is 14.5 hours of darkness. While the amount of sunlight will vary in other parts of the world, winter in the Northern Hemisphere is the period with the least amount of light. It impacts our mood, of which we certainly don’t need more depression beyond the pandemic, thank you very much. We have learned much more about Seasonal Affective Disorder, which impacts far more people than we realize. Without being a trained scientist, I can attest that people’s moods are far better on a sunny day.  As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. A fear of the dark is a very real emotion for children and adults. It makes perfect sense that the time of year with the least amount of light has three holidays that celebrate light: Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa.

In our earlier family days, we would light three Chanukah menorot: each of our children lit one and my wife and I lit one. The final night of Chanukah would feature the brilliance of all the candles burning brightly as well as the electric Chanukah menorah in the window. I would just stand there and take in the light and be uplifted. I still do.

I will offer a few things one might do this year to enhance your Chanukah celebration plus one new twist.

  • Invite friends and family to light your Chanukah menorot at the same time through Zoom.
  • If you have never make latkes, what are you waiting for? You can even connect through technology with other family and friends and cook and eat them simultaneously.
  • Watch a Jewish-themed movie.
  • Read, or reread, a Jewish book. When in doubt, there is always the Hebrew Bible. Perhaps you might find one more person to read the same book. Create your own book club and talk about it.
  • Prepare some Jewish comfort food. My list would probably take up this entire blog.

Chanukah is not about receiving; it should be about giving, bringing and sharing light with others. Despite the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving now being officially declared “Giving Tuesday”, the mitzvah of giving should never be day specific. There is so much need in so many areas. We call it tzedakah from the root word meaning “righteousness”, because it is the right thing to do. Instead of sharing gifts on one evening, share just a bit of money with a tzedakah that you value. That is how we really spread the light of Chanukah and make the world a better place. We should give because it is the right thing to do, not because someone decided to create another “day” in our calendars to observe. That’s why it’s called tzedakah.  

Sun, January 17 2021 4 Shevat 5781