Chanukah is a reminder of light breaking out. One rabbi refers to the light of Chanukah as “holy sparks”. Another says that within Judaism there as many words for “light” as Eskimo’s have for “snow”. Chanukah offers a reminder to what grounds our way of being. What does it mean to discover sparks of light in our lives?
It is not by accident that the Hindu festival of Diwali, the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ known as the “light who shines in the darkness” and Chanukah all come within weeks of the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere. These celebrations of light occur when lengthening shadows and parsed light invite us to reconsider light as the metaphor which grounds our lives.
Chanukah is a lesser Jewish festival with wide appeal inviting non-Jews into its radiance. It transcends its own tradition because we each know about shadows or darkness. We might wonder how to bring light to endless teenage killings in Chicago, the homeless hungry in our cities, justice and peace in the Middle East, Burma or the Congo. Chanukah makes Jews of us all, if only for a season.
The lighting of the Chanukah candles, placed in a window, is a powerful symbol inviting us to ask how we ground our lives. It says, “I invite the light of the Holy in.” It is a life-affirming consciousness that it is possible to move from darkness to light.
What happens when we shine a light on what needs to be repaired, healed, restored or re-created in our own life or the life of the world? We can choose to become part of the “holy sparks” of making the world a better place for all. Chanukah offers a consciousness about how we want to be throughout the year.
The Buddha once told his followers to “Make a light of yourself”. We are not created to be passive, pliant people. The gospel song, This Little Light of Mine was originally sung to remind people of the Holy light burning inside of them, that no person could ever extinguish. It was also a song of claiming our own destiny and power as people made I the imagination of the Holy. Was this why it became an anthem of the Civil Rights movement?
Light can never be stopped from bursting out. Our part is to let it shine. Leonard Cohen wrote that we should “Ring the bells that can still ring” suggesting that we forget about perfection and perfect offerings. He says “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Chanukah invites us to be gentle to those “cracks” and so allow light in. The light of Chanukah summonses our own courage to the let the light be radiant as we go about our daily lives. Those holy sparks become grounding for lives of justice and compassion.
This may be a lesser Jewish festival elevated to broad popular acknowledgment. But I’m grateful to our Jewish friends for such a gift. A gift of holy sparks breaking through the cracks.