The Gift of Kindness: 2020, COVID and Chanukah

I have always loved the stories about Chanukah when a small group of Maccabean soldiers were victorious against powerful King Antiochus and his Greek forces in 165 BCE . Magic happened after the fighting and while there was only enough oil left in the temple to light the lamps for one night, a miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight nights. This is why we celebrate by eating food fried in oil like latkes (potato pancakes) or sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).

 

I hope that after all of our political posturing that a miracle can happen again and we can repair our country, find ways to work together for the benefit of all of our citizens and bask in the light together. This year we celebrate Chanukah from December 10 – 18, 2020. This holiday always begins on 25 Kislev on the Hebrew calendar.

Old Jerusalem Jaffa Gate with blue chanukkiyah during Hanukkah festival

One day, a student asked the rabbi: Rabbi, I know that to be Jewish is to have a special role, a special job in the world. Rabbi, what is my job as a Jew in the world?

The rabbi, never one to answer directly, looked at her students and said: Friends, what is the most important job in the world?

President of the United States! Someone shouted. Prime Minister of Israel, said another. Someone even said: Rabbi! Clearly, he was trying for a good grade. Firefighter! Doctor! Teacher! Artist! Teacher! Parent! The answers came from all corners of the room.

The student looked at the rabbi and said: But Rabbi—what is the right answer? What is my job as a Jew in the world?

And she said: Once upon a time, long before iPads and iPhones, before TV and streaming, even before there was electricity—there was a person in every town who was responsible for lighting up the streets. On the street corners, lamps sat—ready to be lit each night as the sun began to set. And there was one person whose job it was to walk from street to street, from lamp to lamp, with a flame he carried at the end of a long pole. Each evening, the rabbi said, this person would walk her route, lighting each and every lamp—no matter how cold it was, or how hard it was to reach.

But, what if the lamp is in a desolate wilderness, far from everything and everyone, one of the students asked? The rabbi answered: Then, too, it must be lit. And what, asked one of the students, if the lamp is in the middle of an OCEAN!! The rabbi smiled and said: The one must put on a bathing suit, jump into the water, and light it there. Without it, she said, there would be no light.

The student looked again at the rabbi and said: Rabbi, I still don’t know the right answer. “What is my job as a Jew in the world??

The rabbi looked at her students and said:

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