Hanukkah falls on Kislev 25, just as it does every year.
This year, incidentally, the Hebrew month of Kislev coincides with the month of December.
And that’s how we end up lighting the first candle on Erev Christmas.
Which means, you have nine more days to prepare for Hanukkah.
I’m thinking about how best to light up Hanukkah in eight different ways. “We have come to banish the darkness” is a contemporary Israeli Hanukkah song that speaks to the darkness many of us may be feeling (whether due to personal issues or anxiety about our country and the world).
Here are suggestions for bringing more light into the world for every night of Hanukkah. Read them all now so that you’re ready to welcome the lights of Hanukkah next week!
Night 1 (Saturday night, December 24)—lighting up the world for 65 million refugees
When you say the blessings for the first night and say the shehecheyanu to give thanks for being alive to celebrate this holiday, add this prayer from HIAS for the world’s refugees.
Night 2 (Sunday night, December 25)—lighting up our intergenerational community
Second Night Light promises to bring light to HBT members and friends of all ages with fun, joy, family, and friendship. Come spin the dreidl with our youngest members and hear stories of Hanukkahs past. Discover the magic of the HBT community. Bring your own hanukkiyah (Hanukkah menorah) to light up the social hall.
Night 3 (Monday night, December 26)—lighting up with an inspiring book/video
Snuggle up and enjoy Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. Did you know that Keats was Jewish? Read the classic book that changed children’s literature in 1962,celebrate the author’s 100th birthday, and watch the streamed animated special with a Hanukkah twist.
Night 4 (Tuesday night, December 27)—lighting up with Guilt-Free Gelt
Night 5 (Wednesday night, December 28)—lighting up our own spirits
Maybe you can’t escape those feelings of fear, anxiety, and loss. Maybe candles aren’t enough. RitualWell offers prayers and rituals to find healing in hard times. Have you ever visited a mikveh? If you haven’t watched it, see the Mayyim Hayyim video that features HBT, Rabbi Penzner, and member Forbes Graham. Or watch it again.
Night 6 (Thursday night, December 29)—lighting up the baseball diamond
Spring training is just eight weeks away!
Get a taste of spring by celebrating baseball—Jewish style.
Remember, relive, or become acquainted with Hank Greenberg. Not only was he the first famous Jewish player in the major leagues, but he had a social conscience, too. Watch the film, “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” (a terrific present for Hanukkah fans and baseball fans alike!)
Night 7 (Shabbat, December 30)—lighting up the spirits of people who are alone
This short essay in Hadassah magazine can inspire you to be with someone who might be alone right now. Invite them for Shabbat and candlelighting, or bring Shabbat and Hanukkah to them. Cherish the moment. (Full disclosure: a FB friend drew my attention to this article because the author quotes me in it. Besides that, it’s a very moving piece.)
Night 8 (Saturday night, December 31)—lighting up the New Year with rededication
That’s what Hanukkah means, after all. How will you pick yourself up after 2016 and bring your light into the world? Start off 2017 with resolve to recommit yourself to live the values you espouse. Will you add an hour or two each week or each month to write letters, volunteer, show up at a rally? Will you add a little more to your donations to the organizations you believe in most? Will you add an act of kindness every day? Will you come to HBT one more time each month to support and sustain our community and nurture your soul? Make a list and put it somewhere where you will see it every day.
Hag urim sameyach! Happy Hanukkah!
Rabbi Barbara Penzner