Chanukah will soon be upon us, a welcome respite from the dark days we have experienced. While we all hope that the warm glow from the candles brings light and joy to all, we must be mindful that might not be the case for all. In my particular case, in addition to the horrors that I experienced, my father passed away last year on Shabbat Chanukah, so this will be his first yahrtzeit. I recall sitting in his hospital room with my mother and sister, when my wife called Erev Shabbat, inviting us to experience the lighting of the Chanukah menorah through FaceTime. It is bittersweet as I recall the joy on my father’s face holding my iPhone as he sang along as best as he could, and the joy in the faces of my mother and sister. Little did I know that he would pass the next morning.
All of us have special memories of Chanukah: the smell of latkes, the beautiful oil menorah ablaze, the songs, the squeals of delight as children open their presents, playing dreidel. I hope to be able to avoid having this yahrzeit, and all that follow, put a damper on what is a celebration. In fact this is the only Jewish holiday that the sages of old insist that we publicize. Publicize? How do we do that? We are instructed to place a Chanukah menorah in the front window of our homes that faces the street for all to see. In Hebrew it is called pirsoom ha-nes, “publicizing the miracle.” Over the years this has led to public lightings, and even inflatable lawn decorations.
Our public lighting on December 2 will be emotional for many, including me. My guiding principle has been pirsoom ha-nes - we won’t let the light go out, and the world has to know that. I was inspired by the Peter Yarrow song “Light One Candle”. The chorus reads:
Don’t let the light go out, it’s lasted for so many years.
Don’t let the light go out, let it shine through our love and our tears.
It was as though he wrote it for us. As our Congregational Vice President Alan Hausman has said: “We have been here for 154 years, and we will be here for another 154.” Amen.