by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

The rabbis of the Talmud were concerned that the miracle of Hanukkah be publicized, so the tradition grew up to put thehanukkiah (Hanukkah candelabrum) in the window, for all to see. But the family is also to gather together, each one lighting his or her ownhanukkiah, in order to publicize the miracle inward, to the family.

The miracle of Hanukkah is two-fold, the victory of a small army fighting against a large army, and the burning of a small cruse of oil, enough for one night, for a whole eight nights.

The miracles of Hanukkah can be understood in very spiritual terms. First, remember that if you are a minority, if you are just a small group, that does not mean that you can’t make a difference. So many of us who are passionate about causes often feel that our voices will never be heard. Hanukkah reminds us that it is possible for us to prevail, no matter what the odds.

The other thing for us to remember is that when we are worn out and tired, when we feel we can only go on for a little while longer, we should kindle the lights within us anyway, and we may be surprised. The ability to keep going may just be stretched from one day to eight, enough to bridge the gap between impossible and possible. And Shabbat is here to help us with that process.

Hanukkah Day 1 – Dispelling Fear and Finding Courage
Hanukkah Day 2 – Acknowledging Greed and Encouraging Generosity
Hanukkah Day 3 – Eviscerating Guilt by Responding with Action

Guilt is often a really useless feeling. We can so easily get stuck in guilt and really immobilized. Think about it. “I feel so guilty about…..” Have you ever said this? It sounds so familiar to me, and the feelings associated with the words. It is so easy to sit and stew and wallow in our misery about what we did do or didn’t do, and as a result be incapable of enjoying life at all.

The things about which I can start to feel guilty are so numerous! What about you? Do any of these ever start you feeling guilty?

  • Walking into a store and buying something, just about anything.  
  • Filling the gas tank.
  • Overeating.
  • Observing images of poverty.
  • Spending more than you can afford.
  • Turning on the heat in the fall earlier than at a younger age

Once you started feeling guilty, what did you do? Anything? If so – yasher koach, good for you! Doing something can get rid of guilt. Action can get rid of guilt. In some cases, we have done something to someone, and then an apology is a good place to start. But to whom do we apologize for heating our home and driving our car? For having a roof over our heads and enough to eat? Guilt related to the larger problems – the societal and cultural problems in which we participate – cannot be assuaged with an apology. And even an apology for a personal affront requires a follow-up change in behavior in order to be real. 

In essence, no matter what we feel guilty about, the best way to eviscerate it, to weaken it, to diminish it, is to act. Our action might not be directly related to what causes us to feel guilty (though in some cases, like overeating, the obvious solution is to eat less), but we can act nevertheless. Letters to our representatives about issues related to the environment or poverty are useful actions that can help lessen our feelings of guilt. Increasing our commitment to organizations working for causes about which we care, and feel guilty, by giving either of our funds or of our time, can lessen our feelings of guilt. Stepping forward and speaking up about the issues we care about, and being willing to put ourselves on the line can lessen our feelings of guilt. Changing the way we live so that our daily living aligns closer to our innermost values can lessen our feelings of guilt.

“Come let us walk in the light of the One.” (Is. 2:5) As we light three candles this night before Shabbat begins, as we publicize the miracles both outwardly and inwardly, let us feel the lightness beginning to enter our souls as we let go of fear, greed, and guilt, and walk in the light with courage, generosity, and positive actions.

Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Urim Sameach – Happy Hanukkah!

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