My Turn

From Jerusalem to Jersey City: Menorah message, meditation and memorial

24 Dec 2019 | 12:08

Listen to the lights. The Menorah has a modern-day message.

Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, recalls the victory — 2,158 years ago— of a militarily meek but spiritually strong Jewish people over the mighty forces of a ruthless enemy that had overrun the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They desecrated the Menorah, threatened to extinguish its light and engulf its people in darkness. The miraculous victory culminated with rededicating the Temple and the rekindling of the Menorah. But they only found enough oil for one day. Miraculously, it lasted for 8 nights.

Chanukah has been celebrated ever since by lighting the Chanukah Menorah.

But the miracle has lasted far longer than eight nights. The miracle is that the light of Judaism is still aflame after 2,100 years!

History repeats itself. From Haman to Hitler, Pittsburgh to Poway, Jerusalem to Jersey City, the Jewish People and the continuity of Judaism has been attacked. The forces of darkness are ever present. Tragedy. Violence. Terrorism. Hatred. Anti-Semitic attacks.

How have we responded? How do we dispel the darkness?

Chanukah’s answer: By creating light.

Light is one of the most powerful creations of G-d. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Blessed memory would often quote, “a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.”

The menorah lights remind us that our response is that will is stronger than fear, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness.

How lucky are today in the United States that we are able to light public menorahs and display Jewish pride with the government at our side, not in persecution but in support.

We will not let anyone take that away from us.

Almighty G-d, Creator of all mankind:

Let us pray that we hear the message of the menorah.

The menorah in the temple was made out of a single piece of gold. This highlights what it means to be a “human menorah” today as well: Regardless whether we are on the “far right” or the “far left,” we are all branches of the same menorah.

Chanukah means rededication.

Then, after the destruction Jerusalem, it was the rededication of the Temple and rekindling the menorah.

Today, after Jersey City it means rededicating ourselves to the universal morals and values highlighted by the menorah: To be a source of light!

The light of freedom over oppression.

The light of spirit over matter.

The light of education and knowledge.

The light of goodness and kindness.

The light of tolerance and understanding.

The light of kindling our inner menorahs in addition to the Chanukah Menorahs!

Let us pray that the menorah message will illuminate the everyday life of everyone personally and of society at large.

Rabbi Pesach Burston is the co-director of Chabad of Orange County.