Top of Mind Thursday – December 7, 2023: A Light in the Darkness

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Tonight marks the start of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah celebrates the victory of a small band of Jewish rebels who resisted the efforts of the Assyrian king Antiochus to prevent them from practicing their religion. The Maccabees were able to defeat Antiochus, but when they went to light the menorah in the Holy Temple, they only found enough oil to last one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for 8 days, until more could be made.

For the last 2200 years, Jews the world over have celebrated the victory of light over darkness, of good over evil, of communal strength over bigotry and repression. We light candles in our own menorahs for 8 days, and eat foods cooked in oil, such as potato latkes or doughnuts.

This year, with the atrocities perpetuated against innocent men, women, and children by Hamas, skyrocketing antisemitism in many countries in the world, and Ivy League colleges refusing to condemn those calling for the genocide of Jews, some are questioning how much celebrating we can do.

The answer to me is simple: We must continue to light menorahs, to celebrate small victories, and to refuse to buckle before seemingly unsurmountable challenges.

This year, some non-Jews are lighting menorahs in support of their Jewish friends. Many of us will be setting candles in an additional menorah and leaving it unlit—in memory of those who were murdered on Oct 7th and to honor the hostages who are still held in captivity two months later.

This year, we celebrate the strength of the Jewish people worldwide against antisemitism and terrorism, and we join with others who believe that good does triumph over evil.

This year, it is even more critical that we continue to spread the light.

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