Nearing the end of 2017, this time of year is usually when we read top-ten lists of the books, movies, and moments that regaled us and stood out as exceptional from the months behind. They’re usually positive and fun. This year, however, seems to be draped in shadow. Despite a few bright moments, conversations seem focused on what were the worst events; instead of hearing buoyant plans for the New Year, worries and anxieties pepper discussions.
With all this as background, we are also smack dab in the middle of Chanukah. I find myself reflecting this year on this story of a people who had been battered from within and without, their lives and temple destroyed. I wonder: Is the real miracle of Chanukah the fact that a tiny bit of oil burned for 8 days, or that these people dared to re-enter the ruins, pick up what could be salvaged, and re-kindle The Light?
The story of the Jews and Chanukah is the not the first time worlds have been seemingly destroyed. History is composed of floods and tyrants, disasters and difficulties. On a personal level we’ve all felt a world destroyed at the death of a loved one, the loss of a business, or the dashing of a dream. Daring to step into the very heart of what has been seemingly ruined, being brave enough to search for the good that remains, and having the audacity to use that good to rekindle our inner Light is a true miracle. This kind of miracle is available to us every day, and every moment.
Our story, the human story, begins with creation. Made in the image of Creator we contain this infinite capacity to envision, birth, begin again. It lies dormant as oil until we courageously add to it the flame of our intention, igniting hope where once was despair; light where once was darkness. With our courage, we make our own miracles.
Two rules for lighting Chanukah lights is that they must be lit after dark, and placed where they can be seen by others, traditionally setting them in windows. This makes each moment of lighting an act of rebellion against the dark negative, a flinging open of the shutters of our hearts to again engage, reach out, connect to the world outside from our own greatest place.
While we scour through this past year I challenge us all to look for the good; to find the little cruse of oil that does remain, rather than the ruins surrounding it, and kindle it with all our hearts. To throw open that which threatens to close us in, and let our Light shine out brightly for all to see. To touch others with the best of ourselves; to call out not the end of something but rather the beginning.