I have always heard the explanation that Hillel wants us to increase the light. We make the world holier, more full of shalom, by bringing more light. I have always been intrigued that it isn’t just increasing the light (physically or spiritually). We are actually increasing the light during a period of time when the light outside first diminishes, and then starts to return. Hanukah starts on the 25th of the month of Kislev. As the month closes, the moon wanes until it becomes a new moon (not visible) on the 5th day of Hanukah. This darkness is increased because it falls close to the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. So as we approach the new moon closest to the Winter Solstice, we are increasing the light. We finish Hanukah, with a fully kindled Hanukiyah, blazing with light, as the moon reappears in the sky, giving us hope and strength to persevere through that dark time.
Even as we observe Hanukah this year, I will have Gawande words in my heart and head. What do I/we need to do to help ourselves, our family, our community, our country, our world, pull through this dark and troubled time? Like Hanukah, we know the new month is coming and we sense, for the first time in a while, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We all have opportunities to add to and increase the light by not just looking for the light, but finding ways, little and big, every day and extraordinary. Be sources of light, to lift our own spirits and those of all who cross our path.
Rabbi Birnholz & the Birnholz Family