Within You Burns a Candle

Thank you to CAJE Board Member Adrian Muller for inspiring much of the Dvar Torah below!

Photo by BBC Creative on Unsplash

Everyone must know that within them burns a candle — and that no one’s candle is identical with the candle of another, and that there is no human being without a candle. One is obligated to work hard to reveal the light of one’s candle in the public realm for the benefit of the many. One needs to ignite one’s candle and make of it a great torch to enlighten the whole world.”


19th-20th century Kabbalist and First Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel

Abraham Isaac Kook

Hanukkah is one of the few holidays celebrated by most Jews.


And its message reverberates from the distant past to the contemporary present, reinterpreted through the years and across nations to enable it to feel relevant in every age.


Most years, we focus on the joys of the Hanukkah miracle and are uplifted by the story of Israel’s victory over those who would see our national light extinguished.


Sadly, this year our attention is also focused on the challenges our people face in Israel and in the United States.


We feel as if we are under siege, militarily and culturally.


This is, of course, not the first time we Jews have felt this way, and likely, it will not be the last (unless the Messiah or Messianic Age arrives to interrupt history as we know it).


As always, our ancestors have a great deal to teach us in how to survive and thrive in adversity.


Think back to the Hanukkah story. A small band of Jewish warriors were up against the legions of the Syrian-Greek army, which ruled over all the lands surrounding Israel.


The odds were against Jews, but with perseverance and faith in our way of life, we overcame our enemies on the military battlefield and in the spiritual arena.


Our ancestors’ resiliency was far beyond the expectation of our enemies. And the same still holds true today.


It is time for us to carry their faith and the flame they kindled forward with strength and moral clarity, and again prevail against the latest incarnation of hateful antisemites.


Like the oil that lasted for eight days instead of one, the Jewish people endure as long as we evoke the light within ourselves and each other.


The 8 nights of Hanukkah allude to the transcendent nature of our Jewish Nation.


As seven days signifies creation of the physical world, the number eight connotes beyond the physical-- completion, perfection, transcendence.


CAJE is approaching its 80th anniversary in the upcoming secular year of 2024, and the message of Hanukkah is especially meaningful to all of us—staff and board members-- who work so hard to advance Jewish education in our community.


At CAJE, we rededicate ourselves to meet the challenges ahead and to kindle the lights of Hanukkah with transcendent strength along with blessings of joy and hope.


As Rav Kook notes above, each one of us is a lamplighter, capable of spreading so much light in the world and in ourselves.


This year, as we celebrate Hanukkah, let’s remember that the Hebrew word for miracle is “neis,” the same root as the word for a “test” or a “challenge.”


Jews in Israel are being tested by Hamas and Jews in the US are being tested by their supporters.


We are currently being challenged to find the transcendent power within, to join with each other as one flame lights another, in order to make a great torch to illuminate the world.


May you merit a Hanukkah filled with light – external and internal— and may we, the eternal People of Israel, merit the return of the hostages and soldiers safely so they too may enjoy a bright Hanukkah as well.

Shabbat Shalom