Lighting the Menorah after Such Darkness Has Touched Our Nation: Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk

Many are asking: how to finish celebrating Chanukah? How can we light the menorah and celebrate these last two nights, as news begins to pour in about another, yet uniquely horrific incident of violence in our country, this time in an elementary school in Newtown, CT, where young children, educators and staff were killed.  Rabbi Nosanchuk shared the following teaching last night, Friday, December 14, 2012 at Shabbat Chanukah worship at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. These remarks were intended to help bring meaning to the many children and families present with us, alongside so many seeking comfort and solace in the community. On Yom Kippur this year, he offered a more directed set of remarks concerning gun violence in our country and the need to actively raise our voices, and motivate a change in laws and in the culture that promulgates so much violence. Here is a link to that sermon, “An Armed Amalek: Why We Must Not Stand Idly By.”

On our temple’s Chanukiah, we have inscribed the traditional verse: Hanerot Hallalu Kiddush Hem, These lights are for praise, they radiate kiddush (“holiness.”) The verse is supposed to remind us not to make use of the lights.

They are not to be of use, merely present at our disposal and under our power. Even if our power goes out,

–          These lights are not for reading

–          These lights are not for finding our way through a darkened sanctuary

–          They are certainly not for setting other things ablaze

Hanerot Hallalu Kiddush Hem – These lights lead us to remember a miraculous battle which turned to our favor. These lights are to place in our windows for a brave Maccabee, whose courage helped us beat the odds stacked against our people at a time when we truly needed bravery and courage.

Tonight on this Shabbat, Friday, December 14, 2012, we light these lights in a world so darkened by tension and hurt, by violence and rage. You don’t even have to look very hard to find it. No matter what we learned today at our homes or on our way, we each come here in search of Chanukah light… the light of holiday joy, the light of laughter while spinning dreidels and sharing gelt, the light that reminds us that we can practice our faith and live in freedom.

We want to make our way from a place of true darkness to a new destination of peace, joy and light. But these lights, the ones burning brightly on our temple’s menora are not going to get us there.  They can’t, according to Judaism, light the path from the tension and the pain of this darkened hour to the joy and the sweetness of a new day ahead.

But these lights, these ones on the bimah, are a reminder to us that miracles are possible, and so if our world is to be transformed it won’t be by a match touching the wick of the shamash.  It will be because tonight:

–          This Chanuukah we reached out to others in kindness, offering our hands to assist those in pain.

–          This Chanukah we open our hearts to the frailties so many carry in our world

–          This Chanukah we decided to fire up our words and our actions and demand a better way

–          This Chanukah we determined to walk the entire distance on our own, this night we began to walk from a darkened night to a new day’s radiance.

I ask you on this Shabbat then- to take a moment and look for such light within you, look for the courage of a Maccabee within your parents or your children. I ask you to look around you- to your friends and fellow members of this community. For we’ll need one another’s support on this journey.

Then ask yourself- this year, this Chanukah, what am I going to do to light the way to a more peaceful and hopeful  nation? What can do ? What will I do? And when you have thought of something to do, when you are ready, then and only then, rise with this community, as we call out to God for help as we seek more blessing and more peace,