Tonight the winter holidays begin! This year the lunar and solar calendars overlap in such a way that the winter solstice will fall during Chanukah, which I think is pretty neat. I'm keenly aware of long night at this point in the year, and take great satisfaction in knowing that tonight, I'll get to light the first candle against the backdrop of all that darkness.
The physical increase of light over the next eight nights has an emotional impact on me. I love watching the chanukiyah cast its small light -- and then two small lights -- and then three...! I love how small the observance is, too. A small celebration for a small holiday in the time of year when maybe we're feeling most small. Chanukah doesn't ask us to do anything grand or overwhelming -- just to light a candle. And then another. One little step at a time.
Of course, there's an emotional increase of light that arises through this festival, too. As the little flames on our chanukiyot add up eventually to a blaze of brightness, so the little flames we kindle in our hearts these eight days can add up to a bonfire of holiness, and awareness of God, and joy. Just as our ancestors rekindled the ner tamid, the Eternal Light, in the Temple in days of old, so can we rekindle our own sense of connection with eternal light in our neshamot, our souls and hearts.
With every spin of the dreidel, we are reminded that nes gadol haya sham, "a great miracle happened there." In our celebrations, may we be mindful of the great miracles that happen right here, wherever we are, no matter what the outward circumstances of our lives may be.
I wish all who celebrate Chanukah a joyous personal rededication, a meaningful celebration of the festival of lights, and a renewed sense of the miraculous in our lives. Chag sameach!
[Yes, I know it's customary to light the first candle on the right, not on the left. I still like this picture, taken at the home of my two sisters-in-law last year.]
New on VR: a Chanukah category. All of my Chanukah posts from '03-'06 are now tagged as such, and can easily be found in a batch together. Enjoy!