Rabbi Shapiro's Shabbat Message - December 16, 2022

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Rabbi Shapiro's Shabbat Message - December 16, 2022

Sunday night, Jews all over the world will light our chanukiyot. We will light one beautiful burning candle, but it could have just as easily been eight. You see the rabbis of the Talmud have an argument about how we ought to observe Chanukah. One school says that we ought to begin with eight candles in our chanukiah and remove one candle each night. Another school suggests just the opposite, that we begin with one candle and add an additional candle each night. The latter opinion won out because, the rabbis teach us: we want to bring more light into the world each and every day, not less.
On Wednesday, we’ll mark the winter solstice, the day of the year with the least daylight hours, the most hours of darkness—it always falls right around Chanukah because Chanukah is about bringing light into our world at the darkest time of the year, and into the darkest places as the Polish Holocaust survivor I.I. Cohen recalls:


One of the items I smuggled out of Auschwitz, when the Nazis moved me into a quarantine camp, was my spoon,” Cohen remembers. “It wasn't much, but it was mine – and it would come to play an important role in my Jewish life and in those of some of the 500 or so other prisoners there.
Having always kept mental track of the calendar, I knew when Chanukah had arrived,” he shares. “During a few minutes rest, a group of inmates and I began to reminisce about how, back home before the war, our fathers would light their menorahs with such fervor and joy. We remembered how we could never seem to get our fill of watching the flames sparkling like stars, how we basked in their warm, special glow, how they seemed to imbue us with a special sanctity.
We got to thinking about the origins of Chanukah, about the war of the Hasmoneans against their Greek tormentors, who were intent on erasing Judaism from Jewish hearts. We recalled the great heroism of the Jews at the time who risked their lives in order to practice their beliefs. And we remembered how God helped them resist and defeat their enemy.
Then we looked around ourselves. Here we were, in a camp where our lives were constantly in danger, where we were considered sub-human and where it was virtually impossible to observe the most basic practices of Judaism. How happy we would be, we mused, if only we could light Chanukah candles.
While we talked and dreamed, we were all suddenly struck, as if at once, by the same resolution: We must find a way to make Chanukah. One fellow offered a small bit of margarine he had saved from his daily ration. That could serve as our oil. And wicks? We began to unravel threads from our uniforms...
What, though, could be our menorah? I took out my spoon, and within moments, we were lighting our Chanukah "candle," reciting the blessings. We all stood around entranced, transfixed, each immersed in our own thoughts... of Chanukahs gone by... of latkes, dreidels, and Chanukah gelt we’d received as children.
Our unusual Chanukah menorah kindled in us a glimmer of hope. It brought light into such a dark, dark place.
That is the real miracle of Chanukah. It’s not about the mythic story that a small bit of oil lasted for eight days. The miracle of Chanukah is the immutable, unbreakable, Jewish spirit that always finds a way, not to simply survive, but to thrive, and to bring a little light into even the darkest of places.
So, on this Shabbat leading us into Chaunkah, may our homes, and our lives be filled with love and light, and may we take that light and illumine our world.
Shabbat Shalom, and Chanukah Sameach,