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Every month I’ve been leading a group on Zoom to discuss some aspect of Judaism that we all may not know much about. Although some of my research describes familiar practices and beliefs, almost everyone learns something new. This month we discussed Chanukah, which begins very early on the secular calendar on November 28. We reviewed not only the familiar stories, but I realized that everyone, American Jews and non-Jews alike, have opportunities to reframe the way we see our lives during a season that is holy for many. These are the insights that emerged for me.
The Lighting of the Chanukah candles—
Most people probably know that Jews light eight candles, plus the shamash, which is the lead candle. The candles are lit to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah: when the Maccabees liberated the Temple from the Seleucids and restored and cleaned it, they found only one pure cruse of oil remaining. It was enough to burn for one day, but it burned for eight days, until additional oil arrived. To Jews, the miracle was a reminder that G-d was once again with us. The shamash, which is used to light the other candles, serves as the leader in this process. It “lights the way” to remind us of the miracle of the holiday.