Shabbat Hanukah I
This evening the festival of Hanukah begins. Hanukah is one of our most vivid holidays: candles, menorahs, dreidles, songs, latkes, an engaging story of heroism, it's just about perfect!
One of the things I appreciate most about this holiday is its name: like almost every Hebrew word, "Hanukah" is built on a three letter root. In this case the letters are "het, nun, chaf" or, reading from right to left:
ח נ כ
Other words built on this same three-letter root include: "dedication," "education," "consecration" and "apprenticeship." When we move into a new home our "house-warming party" takes on additional significance when we hang a mezuzah on our doorpost (something I love doing, give me a call if you're moving!!). Now a simple house-warming becomes a "Hanukah Bayit" / a consecration of our new home.
Hebrew links the concepts of dedication and education in a way that would never occur to us in English: It is through education (hinuch) that we learn the value of dedication to our collective identity. It is through the consecration of our homes that our family lives unfold in sacred space and in that consecrated space we learn to dedicate ourselves to our loved ones. There is a lot of depth to the etymological connection created by these three Hebrew letters.
I hope you will have the opportunity to share Hanukah candle lighting with family and friends this week (you'll find the words and melodies for the blessings and some Hanukah songs at: www.toratyisrael.org/hanukah.html). And as you gaze into the mesmerizing little flames of those candles, I hope you will find inspiration to renew your dedication to and education in the beauties of our tradition.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.