Every Friday night, Jewish women bring in the Shabbat by lighting candles all over the world. This tradition has been passed down through the generations, linking us to those who came before and to those who will follow us. The candle that we light once a year on the anniversary of the passing of our ancestors reminds us of how they impacted our lives. Those who are no longer with us shape our behavior and decisions through our memories of them, thus making them a part of everything we do.
As we kindle our candles and carry the light forward into the future, we can remember and preserve the miracles of Hanukkah. Each night for eight nights, we light the candles, sing songs, eat fried foods, play dreidel, and spend time with family and friends. We build tradition around the candles. In this very busy life, we often struggle to find the time to enjoy the company of those we love. When we come together to light the candles, let’s remember who taught us these traditions. Let’s share their stories with our children, teaching them traditions that have bound us together for generations, hoping that they’ll continue these traditions, letting the light of Judaism guide us into the future.
The miracles of Hanukkah are numerous, like the meaning behind the candles we light on Shabbat, in memorial, and for the eight nights Hanukkah. We remember the miracle of the small army of Maccabbees saving the Jews against all odds, the story of the miracle of the oil that lasts for eight days even though there is only enough for one, and the fact that we, as a nation, are still strong and vibrant after all the years of persecution and suffering. The candles bring us together, binding past, present and future generations of Jewish people, carrying our legacy of culture, tradition and heritage forward–yet another, albeit modern day, miracle of Hanukkah. _
Sue Penn is the mother of three, Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.