“From Every Human Arises a Light” – Ba’al Shem Tov

It is unusual that we will not be celebrating Chanukah during school this year because the first candle will be lit on December 24th. Of course, our faculty has been retelling the Chanukah story, teaching about the traditions, and practicing the candle lighting brachot and Maoz Tzur. Chanukah is a joyous time in our Jewish calendar. Families gather together for Chanukah parties, our homes are filled with the aroma of fried latkes, our rooms lit from the warm glow of candles in our chanukiot, and the happy squeals of children abound as they play dreidel and open presents. Our senses are alive with the sights, sounds, and smells of Chanukah.

Despite the fact that Chanukah falls during the darkest and shortest days of the year, our homes are aglow. Each night as we light the chanukiah (at our house we light four – one for each member of the family), we put them in the window. Not only are we publicizing the miracle, but also we are reminded that we must metaphorically “shed light” and take it upon ourselves to make the world less dark. Chanukah is often translated as rededication; we all need to consider how we can rededicate ourselves to spreading light in our families and our communities through our words and actions. Traditionally, there are eight kavannot (intentions) that one can assign to each night of Chanukah. Below, I’ve offered some for you to consider. Just as the candles of the chanukiah should be all the same height, except for the shamash, no one of these is more important than the other.

Kavannot to consider:

  • Focus on unplugged family time: play a board game, cook a meal, work on a puzzle together.
  • Return to nature: go for a walk, watch a sunset or sunrise, try a new winter sport.
  • Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or charitable organization.
  • Study a Jewish text: Learn about Rabbis Hillel and Shammai’s debate about lighting the Chanukah candles. Why do we light from 1 to 8 and not 8 to 1?
  • Set aside time to quiet your mind – for some it’s prayer, for others it’s yoga, or running. Find your quiet time.
  • Consider donating to an organization that speaks to your heart and soul.
  • Connect to Israel: subscribe to newsfeed from Israel (Israel 21C, Ynet in English, Stand with Israel), listen to an Israeli podcast (Israel Story, Streetwise Hebrew).
  • Reach out to family and friends who may not live close by and let them know you’re thinking of them.

Chag Orim Sameach!