Eight Nights of Chanukah
Chanukah comes at the darkest and coldest time of the year. One of the greatest mitzvot we can perform over the 8 nights of Chanukah is that of persum haneis, literally advertising the miracle of Chanukah and bringing light and warmth into the night. For this reason we place our chanukiot, our Chanukah menorahs, in the window, so all can share in the experience.
Chanukah means “dedication,” and just as the Maccabbees rededicated the Temple after it was destroyed, we have the opportunity each night of this Festival of Lights to dedicate ourselves and our families to bringing light and warmth into our lives and into the world. When, in the frame of the window, we linger over the light of the candles and engage with questions that help us connect with our loved ones, we make known God’s ancient miracle and create the miracle of Chanukah yet again.
As you celebrate each of the 8 nights, after you light the candles, sing the blessings and some songs, but before you step away from the window and exchange gifts, perhaps you might take the time to consider and talk about each night’s “dedication” listed below.
On this night, we dedicate ourselves to enjoying the purity of the candles’ light while disconnecting from phones, tablets, and computers. What activities allow you to connect with the people you love and focus on what’s most important? What examples of quality family time have you seen others enjoy that you would like to try with your family? What has worked best for you in the past or what do you imagine would be meaningful now and in the future?
On this night, reflecting on the ability of the candles to reach their light far and wide, we dedicate ourselves to reaching out and bringing warmth to someone or some family you have not talked to in a long time, or who is distant in another way. Whom do you miss? With whom would you like to reconnect?
On this night, we dedicate ourselves to engaging in an act of tzedakah in the coming year. As the Maccabbees stepped up to rededicate the Temple after its destruction, how can you step up and take on a project with your family or others to help those who are needy? To which worthy cause would you like to direct your tzedakah?
On this night, we dedicate meal time as a time of togetherness, nurturing the warmth in your home and reflecting the strength of the Maccabbee family. Whom do you know who needs a companion at meal time? Which days in the week present the opportunity for your family to come together over any meals of the day to reconnect and to share?
On this night, we dedicate ourselves to inviting guests into our homes more regularly. Whom would you like to invite to your Shabbat table? Who would enjoy the warmth of sharing a meal, entertainment, or playtime with friends? How can your home reflect the value of a meeting place for all in the community, the value that inspired the Maccabbees to rededicate the Temple?
On this night, we dedicate ourselves to recalling and retelling a story of someone or some group, though small, achieving something big. As we learn that the Maccabbees, through their spirit, achieved more than they thought their small band could, we dedicate ourselves to recognizing the force of spirit in ourselves and others and to recognizing when those who are underrated surpass expectations.
On this night, we dedicate ourselves to contributing to the beauty in the world. As we enjoy watching our chanukiot and our Chanukah candles, each a work of art, how can we engage in hiddur mitzvah, the act of making our Jewish ritual observance more beautiful? How do you want to bring warmth and light into the world in a creative way, or how do you enjoy others’ artistic expressions of beauty? How do we dedicate ourselves to honoring artistic and natural beauty in the world?
And on this night, as all eight candles glow and we recall that in the Chanukah story the oil lasted eight nights when it seemed there would only be enough for one night, we dedicate ourselves to respecting the limited resources in the world. How can we commit to working toward making the most of least?