Each day of Hanukkah, our editor Sara Himeles, who recently graduated from rabbinical school, is sharing a teaching and reflection prompt focusing on different themes of the Hanukkah story. Journal your response or simply reflect on each prompt. We hope these teachings and prompts make your Hanukkah brighter and more meaningful.
“Mai Chanukah?” (“What is Hanukkah?”) the Talmud famously asks (in Shabbat 21b). Throughout the centuries, this question has prompted a range of answers within the Jewish community.
For instance, for secular Zionists, Hanukkah was about the Maccabees’ military prowess and victory over the Syrian Greeks, since this aligned with their own goals to establish the modern Jewish state of Israel.
The rabbis in the Talmud, on the other hand, stressed the miracle of the oil and how God performed miracles for the Jewish people, since they themselves were experiencing the loss of Jewish sovereignty and power.
The story continues to be told in different ways. Depending on who is telling it, it is either about the right to religious freedom, a fight against assimilation, the battle of good versus evil, or the power of the inner spirit.
I wrote eight Hanukkah prompts and could have easily written a dozen more because there are so many ways to interpret this story. So, mai Chanukah? Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, quipped on a recent episode of his podcast, Hanukkah is whatever the Jewish people want and need it to be.
On the eighth night, reflect on what Hanukkah has meant to you this year. What are you taking away from this Hanukkah? What journey have you undertaken between the first and eighth nights? What is the light you are taking forward with you? Is there something you would like to linger on before the end of Hanukkah? May you carry that light forward with you and share it with the world in 2022.
Missed a Hanukkah prompt? Read the prompts for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, and Day 7.