Today we mark the final day of Hanukkah, and in doing so, mark our final holiday in the cycle of a year of hagim at home and in isolation. The realization that we have now observed every major Jewish holiday under the dark shadow of COVID-19 was sobering, yet the rituals of festive light and joy were a welcome respite from that darkness.
Each night, we lit the Hanukkiyah, reminding ourselves that this very act of ushering in light is, itself, a mitzvah. The joyful psalms of Hallel marked the liturgy each morning, and embedded into the texts of our songs and tefillot was a reminder to give thanks for the nisim, the miracles of the past and the present.
At their core, the rituals of Hanukkah comprise a gratitude practice—an intentional cultivation of light. Yet, while Hanukkah is now behind us, the dark days themselves are not, both literally and figuratively. Monday will be the shortest day of the year, and as Hannukah officially comes to a close tonight, we will mark Shabbat’s earliest candle lighting. Indeed, through these blankets of darkness, the deep darkness of our time pervades. With COVID-19 cases rising daily amidst a holiday season plagued by isolation and uncertainty, the continued intentional cultivation of light—so deeply ingrained in the daily rituals of Hanukkah—feels more necessary than ever. How might we then continue the work of dedicating ourselves to ushering in the light?
We read this week in parashat Miketz of Yosef’s gift for interpreting dreams. He interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, and that which he predicts comes true, prompting Pharaoh to refer to him as אִ֕ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֛ר ר֥וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֖ים בּֽוֹ, A man with the spirit of God within him (Genesis 31:38)-one born with a unique and special set of skills. The Talmud, however, sees the meaning and outcome of a dream as not necessarily predicted by the skills of the interpreter, but rather, manifested by the interpreter’s vision itself; All dreams follow the interpreter (BT Brachot 55b) we read in Masechet Brachot. According to this midrash, Yosef himself used his intentionality to envision and manifest that which he sought to see.
With many more days of darkness still ahead, can we do the work of envisioning and manifesting the light we seek to see? With the rituals of Hanukkah behind us as of tonight, what practices can we do to keep going in that work? Here at BJ, our Waze Home for Hanukkah resources sought to support us in this exact journey, offering classes and events that served as not only momentary moments of light and celebration, but as meaningful gateways into ongoing practices of ritual, learning, and meaning-making long after the holiday ends.
Whether it be through prayer or learning, music or movement, text study or activism, may we all find grounding ways to continue to usher in the light, interpreting and envisioning the joy we wish to see, even through darkness.