Tonight is the last night of Chanukah, when all the candles are lit, and our homes are filled with light and joy. For too many Jews, though, this week, there was a shadow of darkness within the light.
Our people has been under siege from murderous attacks in kosher grocery stores and Chanukah parties in New York, to the desecration of a synagogue in the Iranian Jewish community in California, to vandalism in Europe from London to Belgium to Ukraine, to the daily attempts of Israel’s enemies to destroy it.
These attacks have been against religious Jews and secular ones. Hatred against our people makes no differentiation. No matter our disagreements with each other over politics or ritual, we are all deeply connected to each other, Kol Yisrael aravim ze bzeh. We have a continuous history that is long and rich and meaningful, and it is because we have always found a way to come together and help each other.
We must remember that the real story of Chanukah is having courage and living our lives without giving in to despair or hate. Our enemies tell us that we do not belong, that we should hide in fear, or disappear altogether.
Our response to tragedy and adversity, from the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees, to the establishment of the State of Israel and the blooming of Jewish education around the world after the Holocaust, is to show that we are strong, that we are here, and that we will always rebuild our lives and will do so with courage and kindness and optimism. We will always be a light in the darkness.
We are blessed to live in a wonderful community that has law enforcement dedicated to our protection, and a Jewish Federation that is constantly in touch with government agencies to make sure that we stay safe.
I think the best response to those who hate us for being Jewish is to dedicate ourselves to living deeper Jewish lives, attending services as a community, learning together, and continuing to educate our children in the beauty and richness of our tradition. That was the response of our ancestors. Our descendants will thank us for the beautiful communities that we will bequeath them.
We should also make sure to stay connected to our allies in other communities who care about us and have rallied around us. We must make sure to be there for them in their times of need.
Rav Avraham Kook, who loved all Jews, noted that when we light the Chanukah lights, we say the blessing over a single light, ner shel Chanukah, no matter now many we are actually lighting. He said that we as a people, no matter how diverse, are a single light.
We are taught to be a light to the nations. When we are together, when we live proudly and publicly and as Jews, without giving in to fear and darkness, we can be the light and example the world needs.
Am Yisrael Chai