When we Light the Menorah

When we Light the Menorah

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

It’s one thing to speak about lights in the darkness, but it’s another thing to miss the point of why we light the Chanukah lights at all. Yes, it’s about hope and faith, but it’s about much more. We’ve been softened by assuming roles we think we should play; somehow folding our Chanukah lights into the seasonal lights we love to see down the boulevards of our city’s finest streets. But the Chanukah lights, in addition to being part of the great miracle story, represent our victory over Hellenism and assimilation. Darkness is defeat and light is victory against our oppressors, persecutors, and modern-day antisemites in all their forms.

From “Gates of Prayer,” page 642, which was published in 1975, by the CCAR Press, we find a prayer and reading that reflect Jewish life when it was still reeling from the Holocaust and the 1967 and 1973 wars in Israel.

The lights of Chanukah are a symbol of our joy. In times of darkness, our ancestors had the courage to struggle for freedom: freedom to be themselves, freedom to worship in their own way. Theirs was a victory of the weak over the strong, the few over the many, and the righteous over the arrogant. It was a victory for all ages and all peoples.  

Within living memory, our people was plunged into deepest darkness. But we endured; the light of faith still burns brightly, and once again we see kindled the flame of freedom. Our people Israel has survived all who sought to destroy us. Now, through love and self-sacrifice, we labor to renew our life.

Let the lights we kindle shine forth for the world. May they illumine our lives even as they fill us with gratitude that our faith has been saved from extinction time and again.

Share this reading from “Gates of Prayer” with your family and friends. In this season of darkness and this time of heightened antisemitism, our lights are more than hopeful glows; they are history’s beacon that lights our way with enduring faith, courage, and perseverance. 

Happy Chanukah to you and your family,


When we Light the Menorah 3