Hillel taught: “Light the Hanukkah lights increasing one by one each night.”
And his disciples explained: “Ma’alin b’kodesh v’ayn Moridin”. Always increase in matters of holiness, never decrease.
Shabbat Shalom and hag Hanukkah Sameach.
Let me say clearly before I begin my brief d’var Torah this morning that this is most certainly not a matter of Democrats vs Republicans. Nor is it matter of Liberals vs Conservatives.
It is a matter of the soul of a nation.
This past Tuesday, voters in Alabama, albeit by a very thin margin, took a stand against racism, against hatred and exclusion of LGBT individuals and families, against the breaking down of walls between church and state, against anti-Semitism, against hatred and persecution of Muslims and against an individual who was the subject of numerous allegations of horrible impropriety and I don’t need to be more specific. They rejected those who said that political goals outweigh horrendous statements and allegations of scandalous actions in one’s personal life.
The election was too close: much too close. The numbers of people who supported the defeated candidate and the shameful endorsements of those who were willing to overlook the actions and the statements and the allegations are more than troubling.
But, in the end, a critical statement was made.
We are in the middle of the holiday of Hanukkah. The hanukkiah, the Hanukkah menora sits, like the world, half in light and half in darkness.
Maimonides, in his laws of teshuva, laws of repentance, taught us to view our lives always as perfectly balanced between righteous deeds and sins so that we see that any one action can tip the balance.
Likewise, we must view our world as perfectly balanced between right and wrong, good and evil, destruction and redemption so that any one act can tip the balance.
I would hardly consider the election in Alabama to be the act which will lead the world or our nation to redemption. But, just like the little jug of oil which shouldn’t have been enough to light the Temple and spread light to the world, it is the raw material of something much greater.
So tonight, as we light the 5th candle, we should be eternally grateful that Rabbi Hillel won the argument about how to light the Hanukkah menora. Others wanted to light the lights in the opposite way, decresing the light each day. As we stand half in darkness and half in light, let us be thankful that tonight our ritual brings us to greater light.
Let us light the light which banishes hatred and bigotry, the light which opposes sexual harassment and abuse, the light which encourages respect and honesty, the light which teaches that religious rituals and language aren’t just actions and words but must touch the very hearts of our souls and change our lives and the life of the world for the better.
A little flame produced a major light.
We can not, we must not let the light go out.