San Jacinto Plaza
El Paso, TX – December 28, 2016
We come tonight
To bring light to the darkness
As we have for centuries
During our celebration of Chanukah.
We have gathered in homes from generation to generation
making sure, in places
where we enjoyed freedom,
that the 9 branched Menorah
Could be seen by passers-by
Enough to raise a question in their minds
Why are they lighting these lights?
We are lighting these lights
Because of a fight for freedom
By people who had been given a choice to change their customs, their beliefs, their faith, OR
To die in a world that denied them their right to worship One God.
These people knew there was yet another choice – take to the hills, fight back, keep in mind the vision of the Temple in Jerusalem that was transformed into a space where no Jew could pray again
Unless the fight was successful.
The first phase of a long war
Brought the Jewish fighters,
Known as the Maccabees,
Back to Jerusalem where they did win.
They rededicated the Temple to the One God and to the practices that it had housed from generation to generation.
The celebration lasted 8 days.
Various reasons were given in the retelling of the story that focused on the Jews of Judea and their desire to rejoice.
Several hundred years later, the rabbis added their take on the miracle of the Jewish fighters: that when they entered the Temple, they wanted to light the Menorah in the holy precincts, but could only find enough oil to light it for one day….But it lasted for eight
And they rejoiced.
The rabbis saw it as a miracle made by God
For a people who sought to follow God and their faith for many centuries into the future.
And here we are – far from that place, that spot whose Jewish associations may be questioned by some
But not by we who light this Chanukiah.
Though we may be physically far from that place, our hearts are not far from that place at all
Or from that ancient time when the first shouts of joy emerged from the Temple at a victory for the freedom
To believe what we want to believe
To be who we are
And to teach all of this to new generations of Maccabees.
May the lights we light tonight in this public place inspire us and our neighbors to preserve freedom, understanding, and respect for the many beliefs and customs around us and among us.
May these lights, which we call holy, lead us to infuse holiness into all that we say and do. Amen.