A Lichtiger Hanukkah!


By Rabbi Adam Raskin of Congregation Har Shalom, Potomac, Maryland

On my recent flight home from the inspiring 20/20 Judaism Convention in Boston, the pilot came onto the loudspeaker of the plane just after landing for the typical message thanking passengers for their choice of airlines, and wishing us a pleasant stay in the Washington, D.C. area, ‘or wherever your final destination might be…’ Just before hanging up, the captain went off-script, so-to-speak, attempting to offer holiday greetings to all his passengers. I could tell from the quiver in his voice that he realized had gone down the proverbial rabbit hole. “Merry Christmas” was easy enough to come up with, but then he fumfered as he tried to be more inclusive of other holiday traditions. People squirmed a bit in their seats, and being the only passenger wearing a yarmulke on his head, I smiled broadly and nodded my head to telegraph that I accepted his good wishes, their inelegance notwithstanding.

The truth is that there are several Hanukkah greetings to choose from: “Happy Hanukkah” is the easiest and most familiar, but of course there is “Hanukkah Sameiah” (the Hebrew version of Happy Hanukkah), or Hag Urim Sameiah (Happy Festival of Lights); and some people simply say Hag Sameiah (the all-purpose greeting for Jewish festivals). Yiddish speakers might wish each other “Ah Freilichin Hanukkah,” (a cheerful Hanukkah) or my favorite Hanukkah salutation, “A Lichtiger Hanukkah,” which means a bright, brilliant, luminous Hanukkah. The light of Hanukkah not only refers to the kindling of the Hanukkah menorah, the essential mitzvah of the holiday, but also reminds me of the spiritual flames that were kindled in the souls of our ancestors at this season. In the face of oppression and mounting restrictions of Jewish learning and practice, their inner flames were kindled as they achieved not only a military victory, but a profound spiritual one as well. What an amazing miracle to celebrate! The flame in the Jewish soul burned brightly enough and ardently enough that it ignited a passion for fully reclaiming Jewish life and sacred space.

As we gaze at the increasing brightness of our Hanukkah menorahs, may it remind us of both the physical and spiritual dedication that took place in this season. Inspired by our ancestors’ heroism and passion, may the flame inside each Jewish soul burn more brightly than ever during this Hanukkah season, and beyond.

A Lichtiger Hanukkah to all!

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