On Sunday evening, we will light the first Chanukah candle on one of the shortest nights of the year. Every single morning and evening of Chanukah, we add a prayer to our amidah. Al hanisim–we thank God for the miracles and for redemption. The words are simple, but for them to come alive, we must look at the actions the Talmud proscribes. The Rabbis debate in the Jerusalem Talmud how many candles shall be lit. One Rabbi says a single candle for the entire house, while another says a single candle for each person in the house. The argument continues with the famous Rabbinic pair. Shammai tells us to light eight candles the first night, and reduce to one on the last night. Hillel gives us the tradition of our day: light one candle the first night, and eight on the last, for we must only go up in holiness and not down.
This week, there was a knock on my office door. I was thrilled to see two religious school students attempting to sell me a donut. While I politely passed on the offer, the students explained why they would not take no for an answer.
These donuts were homemade by Liri, Sinai Temple’s shinishinit, our Israeli emissary who will be enlisting in the IDF at the end of the year.
Yet, these were not simply donuts. Rather, it was a recipe of a fallen IDF soldier. Liri attached the picture and story of this soldier to each donut bag, so as we fulfil the obligation to eat something oily and delicious for Chanukah, we also fulfill the responsibility of memory. For what is Chanukah without memory? When a loved one passes, we continue to light a yahrzeit candle each and every year, acknowledging the spark of light that will not be extinguished.
This is what the Chanukah miracle is all about. The miracle lasted longer than eight nights. The miracle lives today, through one person, one candle, through one donut and one story, through thanking God for bringing us a small piece of redemption each day.