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Posts Tagged ‘Hanukah’

I love Hanukah!!! There are so many sacred moments and joyful observances that add to making this holiday distinctive.   The symbolism inspires me to look not only at the history of the holiday, but also to look at the modern lessons that evolve from the Hanukah history and observances.  Light illuminating from the chanukiah fills my home with light and my soul with warmth, but that is only the beginning.  And the most precious part of Hanukah is family time!

There are many emergent values that evolve from the story, the different practices, and the interpretations of Hanukah.  Over the past weeks, I have found myself gravitating to reading articles, blogs, and lesson plans about modern interpretations and practices of this unique holiday.

While parts of the Hanukah story, as we have learned since our childhood, are questionable, the lessons can still guide us to living a fuller personal life as well as a more Jewishly connected life.  Many diverse values are found in Hanukah experience that can guide us towards a more conscious life.

Below are just some of the values or ideas that have helped guide me personally and in many cases my family towards a meaningful connection with not only Hanukah, but also life in general.

1.      Recognizing Miracles

  • Hanukah Teaching:  The Maccabee family was able to lead the Jews against the powerful Syrian-Greek army and ultimately win their religious freedom.  While the story is not as simple as portrayed in our children’s books and there wasn’t necessarily a vat of oil that was supposed to last only a day which lasted 8 days, there are still values in the story.
  • Chava’s take – Miracles exist at every turn, it is beneficial to find a positive way to move through the world.  When challenges happen, it is my job to find the miracles of each moment.

2.     Religious freedom/freedom from oppression

  • Hanukah Teaching:  Always complicated, but the overall story allows us to remember that due to the strength of the Macabbees against the Syrian-Greek army, the Jews were able to gain both religious freedom and freedom from oppression.
  • Chava’s take:  The gift of having the Maccabees stand up for our religious freedom, we now have the ability to make a commitment to religious observance.  I can create a Jewish practice that works for me!

3.     Tikun Olam

  • Hanukah Teaching: The Maccabees did an amazing job by making the world a better place for the Jews to live; they helped make it possible for the Jews to live in a way that allowed them to thrive.
  • Chava’s take:  Making the world a better place takes work.  The Maccabees opened a door by working towards what they believed; this ultimately created the safe space for us to do more of what we believed in.  Each step that others take towards making the world a better place helps us to know that each of us can make a difference if we dare to try.

4.     Civil disobedience

Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance.

  • Hanukah Teaching:  Simply put, the Maccabee family and their followers refused to listen to the Syrian-Greeks.  Hannah allowed her sons to be killed as opposed to doing the abhorrent practice that Syrian-Greeks demanded of her.
  • Chava’s take:  Civil disobedience is painfully challenging.  People make choices that could ultimately lead to their death or to significant loss before improvement will happen.   Those that engage in civil disobedience don’t know for certain whether their efforts will make a difference in the long run.  Yet those same individuals pursue their dreams in order to create a healthier world in most cases. Having the courage to move towards creating a better place to live is the gift you give yourself and/or future generations.

5.     Conscious living – Simplicity

  • Hanukah Teaching:  Taking time to stop, light the Hanukah candles, watch them until they burn out.
  • Chava’s take:  This time of the year warms my heart in every way!!!!  Our family makes every effort to be together as a family.  We cook together; we laugh together; we enjoy each other.  It is awesome!  I love the sweet simple contentment that fills our home this time of year.  Hanukah always reinforces our connection to be together because we know we will be enjoying games, stories, and watching the candles burn in the chanukiah. (NOTE: At this point, I want to note that many years ago the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life was the single most significant resource for guiding me towards ways to create a simpler Hanukah.  They seemed to remove what I utilized to help maneuver my family in a more conscious way, but their website has thoughtful options for how to be more conscious.  http://www.coejl.org/~coejlor/Hanukkah/everyone/index.php)

6.     Darkness turns to light

  • Hanukah teaching:  In the Northern Hemisphere, Hanukah comes at the darkest time of the year when the nights are long and the days are short.  Even with that reality, we fill our nights with the light of candles in the Chanukiah
  • Chava’s take:  When life throws me punches, I can choose to lie down and lick my wounds or look for a way to make my situation better.  I find myself always looking for ways “to plant seeds of joy and light” (Rabbi Shefa Gold) wherever I can.  Thriving in the darkness isn’t possible unless you do work to move through it by creating new possibilities within your challenges.  Symbolically, Hanukah reminds us of hope even in the darkest times.

7.     Am Yisrael Chai: The Nation of Israel  and/or the Jewish People Live:

o   Hanukah Teaching:  Jewish Pride continues to flow due to the actions of the Maccabees and their followers.

o   Chava’s take:  I am often touched by what Jews choose to do as a people.  In recent times, I found myself thrilled when J-Street was created.  This allowed me a voice within the established Jewish community.  Only when we, as a people, listen to each other and share with one another will we be able to continue to have hope for Am Yisrael Chai.

Living life with godliness in our hearts allows us to always bring our best foot forward.  Whether or not you believe in the God who performed miracles for the Hanukah story or for our present times, you can still choose to live as someone filled with God-like attributes.

Living life actively allows us to be conscious people.  And the Hanukah story really does allow us a platform for looking at the past in order to create a better present and future.

May you and your families be blessed with the miracle of seeing the light!

Happy Hanukah,

Chava

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