Practical Judaism – Hanukkah

What is the difference between a ceremony and a holiday?

In a wedding ceremony, for example, you perform rituals and recite specific words with the intention that you will try your hardest to fulfill them. You are committing yourself to those ideas.

A holiday is a celebration of someone else that did the hard work of dedicating themselves to an idea. You are merely applauding their efforts.

Welcome to the new season of the ‘Raising Holy Sparks’ podcast. This year, we will be focusing on Jewish concepts and will be experimenting with ways to take them out of the theoretical and turn them into the practical.

Has anyone noticed that people are nicer during the holidays? People get into the Christmas spirit and are more generous to their neighbors. On Thanksgiving, they think of the poor and needy and donate food or volunteer their time. During Hanukkah, we light candles like the Maccabees did when they rededicated the Temple and its Menorah after it fell into disrepair under the Hellenists.

Yet all of these actions are mere performances. Two weeks later and we are back to our old ways.

There is a joke that a church or synagogue isn’t just a home for God but that it is also a prison for God. Once we leave those doors we wave goodbye to the project of increasing holiness and we are back to the regularly scheduled program.

But what would it mean for a holiday to be an opportunity for rededication and renewal rather than just a celebration?

During Pesach/Passover, we can commit ourselves to creating more freedom for ourselves and others – not just during the seder meal but on a daily basis moving forward.

During birthdays we can feel gratitude for another year that is the gift of life and strive to take advantage of being alive.

During wedding anniversaries we can see the blessing of being loved and endeavor to create a caring household.

As Hanukkah comes to a close, let us not lock it up in the prison of the 8 days to only revisit it in another year’s time, but let us take the message of hope and rededication out of the stories and put it into our everyday lives.

The kavanah (intentional action) that I would like to offer forward this week is for us to reflect on the areas of our lives where we are on auto-pilot, where things have fallen into disrepair. Once you identify one or two areas, take one small step or action to engage with that thing in a more intentional and loving manner.


Thanks for listening and looking forward to being on this journey through the books of the Torah with you!

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