Jewish Festival of Lights speaks to a universal truth about light 

Essay written by Hope Mille (TNSM parent and Diversity and Community Engagement member)

As I write this, it’s the first day of December and the third day of Hanukkah. It’s the time of year when I bemoan the fading light. Although I don’t observe Hanukkah, I appreciate the miracle of the light. (Well, technically, the oil was the miracle.) 

Syrians took control of Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE, persecuted the Jewish people, and desecrated the Second Temple. After regaining control of Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt, Jewish people rededicated the Second Temple by lighting a candelabra. While there was only enough oil in the Temple to light the candelabra for one night, the candles mysteriously, miraculously stayed lit for eight nights.  

From my Gentile perspective, the Jewish Festival of Lights—as Hanukkah is often known—speaks to a profound universal truth: The light remains. 

As we slouch toward our darkest night on the Solstice, the light is still there, and indeed, it will grow. Perseverance—even triumph—is possible in the darkest of moments. 

During their reign of Jerusalem, the Syrians outlawed the practice of Judaism, murdered thousands, erected a shrine to the Greek god Zeus in the Second Temple, and slaughtered pigs inside the Temple as well—a grotesque disregard for the laws of kashrut. 

Imagine living under the weight of this oppression. And yet, the Jewish people rose up and drove the Syrians out of town. While rededicating the Second Temple, the light remained. Despite the dwindling oil supply, there was enough. Perhaps there is enough for us, too. Perhaps we are enough. Perhaps we can do so much more than we think we can with what we have. The fuel that is inside of us is enough to keep us burning bright.   

(For a more detailed history of the events of Hanukkah, check out this History.Com article.)   

Does your family observe a tradition or cultural holiday that you’d like to share with the TNSM community? Do you have a passion for, or expertise in, a certain area of DEI? The D+CE committee is always looking for books, resources, and classroom speakers to help deepen the cultural competency of our school community. Please reach out to us. ([email protected])

Comments 1

  1. I really didn’t understand on a spiritual level until I read this perspective. Thank you so much for sharing this. I look forward to next year but I also think I will carry this with me for the remainder of the season.

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