It once again feels odd that Hanukkah will take place during the Thanksgiving holiday. Technically, Hanukkah begins a week from Sunday. As strange the timing, the confluence of themes may elevate our holiday experience.
In the Bnei Yissaschar, a famous Chassidic text known for its mystical teachings, we learn that we use 36 candles during the holiday of Hanukkah. The 36 candles “parallel the thirty-six times that ‘light, ‘candle’ and ‘luminaries’ are mentioned in the Torah, which hints to the hidden light that shined for the first human being for thirty-six hours.” This hidden light is different from the practical nature of the sun, moon, and stars. It is a light that as human beings, we strive to uncover and restore every single day. A light of goodness. A light of benevolence. A light of civility. A light of kindness. And when we light the Hanukkah candles, we are reminded of the exact light God expects us to bring into this world.
On holidays like Thanksgiving, we tend to be on our best behaviors. There is an air of gratitude and thanks, taking note of the ways other humans have touched our lives. And yet, often, that humility leaves the dinner table as soon as the plates are cleared. Perhaps, this year, we need Hanukkah to appear just days after. In a world in which ill-talk, damaging speech, and rumors fuel daily conversations, emails, and social media, let the holiday of Hanukkah rededicate our lives to the purpose God intended. We are meant to be God’s light. A light that dispels the darkness of shame, rage, gossip, and malice. A light that repairs, rebuilds and heals. A light that once revealed, shines for eternity.
I have been reticent to start decorating for Hanukkah. Why bring out the dreidels when we have yet to eat the turkey? But I think those 36 candles are more than necessary. It is time to get ready for our Festival of Lights. May our Thanksgiving and Hanukkah be filled with graciousness and love.
Let each flame kindle a spark within your soul. You are the light we need.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.