Viewpoint: Jewish festival of light offers message of hope when faced with adversity

·3 min read
The candles of a menorah are lit for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
The candles of a menorah are lit for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

With the world upside down and sideways, Hanukkah, the festival of light, coaxes hope out of the shadows.

The holiday is a celebration of freedom — the mighty victory of a few over the powerful many. It is the miracle of a tiny vessel of oil, only meant to last one night, that lasted eight. Hanukkah shines as an example of the power of the human spirit to triumph. When human beings have a spark of the miraculous — and the resolve to persevere despite the odds, that is a miracle. And the greatest miracle is when extraordinary courage, kindness, vision or determination inspires others.

Edie Roodman
Edie Roodman

At this time of year, I’m always reminded of the broad diversity of our community. Like the eight branches of a menorah illuminate a room, Oklahoma City is brightened and enriched by the proud and vibrant legacy of our diverse heritage. Each candle flame is unique with a rhythm and dance of its own and even more dazzling and lively when the flames come together — spreading greater warmth and light even into the darkest corners of the room.

Hanukkah is one among a sparkling mosaic of other holidays celebrated in countless cities spanning the continents this time of year, each with a distinctive and inspiring message, that make up the whole of the global community. In the words of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, Chabad Lubavitcher Rebbe, which resonate so profoundly, “Remember that in a hall of perfect darkness, totally dark, if you light one small candle, its light will be enough to be seen from afar; its precious light will be seen by everyone.” No matter our backgrounds, faith, or politics, we can each contribute to increase the light and create a more vibrant world for all of us. By placing lit menorahs in our windows the Jewish community fulfills the commandment of spreading light while inspiring others to do the same.

The powerful message of hope shines through in this glowing season of wonderment. Despite the hardships of the past two years, we see glimmers of goodness in every corner — health care workers, first responders, grocery clerks, restaurant staff, truck drivers, and so many others who have all played a role in simply keeping us afloat. Our neighbors on the frontlines committed to their everyday jobs inadvertently continue to fulfill the responsibility of spreading light and hope.

As a Holocaust survivor once said, “When it is cold outside and you are warm in your house, this is not the time to thank G-d that you are warm. This is the time to make sure that someone else is not cold.” If we carry out the responsibility to do mitzvot, good deeds, we live the Oklahoma Standard and create a community of abundant blessing.

As we enter this glittering time of year, may we let the ancient Hanukkah story remind us to generously share our light and remain strong in the face of the seemingly insurmountable.

Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek me ha’or! Be strong, be strong and may we all be strengthened by the light.

Edie Roodman is executive director of the Oklahoma Israel Exchange and former longtime director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Hanukkah reminds us of hope when faced with adversity

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