by Eytan Oren
As November draws to a close and Thanksgiving barrels down on us, some people may be finding it hard to muster up hope and see light in the world. I know it is frowned upon to talk about other holidays before Thanksgiving, but earlier this week we marked Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the beginning of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which contains Hanukkah. Kislev comes from the Hebrew root Chaf-Samech-Lamed, similar to the words “kesel” and “kisla,” translated as hope, positivity, or trust.
The winter season illustrates the issue of trust, with days getting colder and darker, we may forget to see the light and warmth of life clearly. But every morning, there is a new day, full of sunshine and warmth. All 30 days of Kislev are a reminder of that light and warmth. A spark of hope, a reminder of the power of positivity in altering how we feel about our circumstances. I know that neither Thanksgiving nor Hanukkah will feel the same this year. That the family reunions, large get-togethers, community candle lightings, will be replaced by Zoom zimriyahs, meals miles apart, and call-in candle lightings. That we are going through this AGAIN (Pesach, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and now Hanukkah), and that there seems to be no end in sight. But the story of Hanukkah has arrived as a beam of hope.
When we teach the story of Hanukkah to children, we teach about the bravery, courage, and heroics of the Maccabees (Chashmonaim) as they fought against the influence and oppression of the Ancient Greeks. We teach about Judah Maccabee fearlessly leading a greatly outnumbered band of soldiers against an experienced army. We teach about the miracle of the oil, said to have lasted eight days when it should have only lasted one. However, we rarely teach them that the Maccabees had to fight for seven years before achieving victory. We do not mention that Judah and his four brothers all died violently. We skim over the hard work and dedication of the farmers who worked overtime to supply a new batch of kosher, sacred oil to be used in the Menorah.
When we look at the world today, we do not see a victory like in the story of Hanukkah. We see no end in sight, we see tragedy on the news, we feel outnumbered or overwhelmed no matter how hard we work. Now, Kislev has arrived to usher in hope, light, and warmth. To urge us to be positive and trust one another. The Maccabees overcame the odds and re-dedicated the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple. We hope it will not take us seven years to overcome our current struggles, and thankfully we have made progress over the past 2000 years. I plan to wait it out one latke at a time. I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving and a Happy Kislev! Chag Sameach!