Many of us struggle at this time of year. In the northern hemisphere the days are growing shorter and darker. Even one who doesn't have an official diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder can feel the effects of the season. There's also the dominant culture and its pressure to consume (Black Friday! Cyber Monday! Sales that try to convince us we desperately need things we didn't even know we wanted!) -- and the dominant culture's pressure to conform to a particular secularist-Christian vision of December, in which we're expected to perform merriness as we overspend to show our love for each other.
Holiday times are challenging. They offer annual benchmarks: what was life like at Thanksgiving last year? Is it getting better or has it gotten worse? Does my life feel the way I want it to? Are my relationships working the way I want them to? It's easy to give in to the temptation to compare one's life with what one sees on Facebook -- forgetting that for many people, Facebook is a place to show a carefully-curated slideshow of only the best parts of one's life. It's so easy to compare one's own life (with the frustrations, dissatisfactions, and griefs we know intimately and well) with what we imagine everyone else's life to be.
Thank God: here comes Chanukah. Granted, for my nine-year-old Chanukah has a lot to do with LEGOs and board games. For him Chanukah means presents -- and spinning a dreidel, eating chocolate coins, and playing the dreidel song on the piano. But as he grows up, I hope he'll also learn that Chanukah is also about the miracle of enoughness. It's about discovering that what we have -- that what we are -- is enough. It's about light in the darkness, and taking action to make our sacred places holy again... and now that the Temple is no more, it's our job to make the entire world into a holy place filled with the presence of God.
Chanukah is about the leap of faith that says we have the inner spiritual resources to brighten even the darkest moments. Chanukah is about starting with one tiny flame, and cultivating that light so that over time it can grow. Chanukah is about pirsumei nes, publicizing the miracle -- letting our light shine, letting our hope shine, without shame or embarrassment or fear. Chanukah is about affirming that there is a source of light and hope even in the darkest times, and that we too can be a source of light and hope for each other. Chanukah is about (re)discovering that we are enough, exactly as we are.