We Will Rise: Hanukkah Lights for Dark Times

Rabbi Yael Levy

As the light increases, we declare: We will rise. In the face of ruin, amid the rubble, we will rise together.

On the Festival of Hanukkah, we kindle flames for eight days to remember that in the desecrated Temple, amid the rubble, a drop of oil was found. It was only enough to last one day but it burned for eight, the amount of time needed to find and prepare more sacred oil for the holy fire. The first drop of oil was lit not knowing what would be—and it burned brighter and longer than anyone thought possible.

As we come to Hanukkah this year, we witness our country being desecrated. The sacred trust to care for people and the earth, to uphold justice, to afford respect and dignity to all, the commitment to fair taxes, to welcoming immigrants, to seeking peace—lies in ruin.

Like the Temple menorah that ran out of oil, the battering of each new assault on our values and democracy has exhausted many of us.

It can be so easy to despair, realizing how many things have happened despite the opposition of so many people. But Hanukkah implores us to act, even as we do not know if our actions will succeed.

Hanukkah urges us not to get stuck in hopelessness. This season reminds us that a small light illuminates much darkness. We never know what will result from our deeds.

This season calls us to act for the sake of the goodness of the action itself. Act for the sake of the sacred. Act with reverence and love. Experience the power of taking action in the face of ruin, of stepping forward even when so much feels lost.

And this season also calls us to take time to renew ourselves, to welcome joy, and to practice gratitude.

The flames of Hanukkah are lights of rededication. Each night we rededicate ourselves to our sacred values. As the light increases, we declare: We will rise. In the face of ruin, amid the rubble, we will rise together. We will act for goodness. We will act for justice. We will act with kindness, compassion and generosity. We will act to sanctify the earth and honor all people.

It is traditional to light the Hanukkah candles in the window for all to see. Even if you haven’t done this before, even if it feels a little strange, make this a practice this year, a tangible sign that “publicizes the miracles” of renewal and rededication.

In this season, people of many traditions kindle flames in the darkness. In the coming days, as we light the Hanukkah candles, may we be strengthened by each other. May we be inspired by the sacred and by all that we love. May we shine our lights for and with each other.

Hanukkah Sameiakh. Much blessing to all.


Rabbi Yael Levy, named as one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” by the Jewish Daily Forward, is the founder and rabbinic director of A Way In Jewish Mindfulness organization. She serves as part-time rabbi at Mishkan Shalom Reconstructionist congregation in Philadelphia and also as a spiritual director for rabbinical students and in private practice. A graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, she has created and co-led mindfulness wilderness retreats in Alaska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and New York. She is the author of Journey through the Wilderness: A Mindfulness Approach to Counting the OmerAn earlier version of this post first appeared at http://awayin.org.

Found in: Hanukkah, Hanukkah Candle Lighting

Tags: candle lighting, Rabbi Yael Levy


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