The Light of Hope and Justice

by Rabbi Gil Steinlauf 

Scholar-in-Residence, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, where Jewish people celebrate the miracle of our small Jewish numbers overcoming tyranny in the Land of Israel.  One of the central ideas of Chanukah is something called “Pirsumei Nisa.”  This phrase, which literally translates as “publicizing the miracle,” constitutes one of the core observances of Chanukah, along with the lighting of the menorah and the reciting of the blessings.  We can see examples of Pirsumei Nisa in public menorah displays, proudly celebrating our festival alongside Christmas displays. The rabbis in ancient times, however, were very clear in teaching that the most important place to publicly display our menorahs was not in public squares and parking lots, but in our own homes!  We are to light the menorah and place the lights in a window so that others can see the light of the miracle emerging from within the place of our families, from our personal lives. The Talmud (Shabbat 23a) even goes so far as to say that if we are traveling during Chanukah, better we should have someone light the menorah in our homes for us, even though we’re not actually there.

Why such an emphasis on our homes?  Firstly, it is in our own homes where Judaism is most important - more important than synagogues or any other public place. The home is where we live our most authentic lives, in our primary relationships, where our impact on others is the strongest. Second, we want to publicize the light of the Chanukah miracle out to the world as a statement of strength, bravery and faith in the way the Maccabees bravely stood up for the Jewish people even as ancient tyrants tried to stamp us out. Nowadays on Chanukah, we shine lights from our private space out into the world bravely demonstrating that the lives we lead reflect a yearning for a better, more just world.  

This Chanukah, we can still see much darkness in our world. The recent massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as an uptick in hate speech, bigotry, global anti-Semitism and violence represent the tyranny we face in our days.  This year, perhaps more than in many years, we must live the wisdom of Pirsumei Nisa.  We must remind our neighbors, our society, and our world who we are as decent people, and what we really stand for - a world where all people can live in peace, where no one power seeks to oppress or terrorize or persecute another. We must demand that the world take notice that the miracle of overcoming hatred, bigotry and oppression can happen when we put faith in our potential to lift up the light.  

Most importantly, we Jewish people remind ourselves and the world that, through sheer force of our historical memory, no one should ever despair. The light of our menorahs represents, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlov once  taught, “Ain Ye’ush ba’olam klal,”  “There is no despair in the world.”  By this he means that any darkness we encounter always can be driven away. With the light that we possess - through our heritage and our values - we can show the whole world that there is always an alternative to hatred and fear and corruption. And that light begins in our homes writ large - in our own choices, day by day, to live the wisdom and insights borne of our teachings and traditions. 

So this year, when you see the lights of those glowing chanukiyot, remember the gift of what Chanukah brings to the world. Remember that what we really are doing is rekindling the light of hope and justice - a light that can drive away the darkness of all the despair we know.

Happy Chanukah!

Upcoming Events
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Fri
Mar
  22
11:00 AM - 11:45 AM
 
Bender JCC of Greater Washington (Bender JCC: Children & Family Programs)
6125 Montrose Road, Rockville MD 20852
Join us for a monthly challah-making and music-filled session to share joyful Judaism from generation to generation. Connect with other grandparents while bonding with your grandbabies and having fun! Every month will offer different activities such as art and tikkun olam — but making challah and music making will always be included!
Listed In:  Boomers, Families, Seniors, Maryland, Children/Teens/Family, Arts & Culture, Culinary, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Parenting, PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  $10 - $24; Members: $10, General Public: $15

 
 
Sat
Mar
  23
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
 
Congregation Adat Reyim
6500 Westbury Oaks Court, Springfield VA 22152
Introducing Shabbat Family Jam -- a new full-bodied, joyful, family Shabbat experience at Congregation Adat Reyim. Together, we will enjoy a unique Shabbat learning and worship experience full of gratitude, Ruach and Jewish experiences to treasure together! Bring family and friends! Stay to enjoy a nosh afterwards - Kosher oneg noshes and treats are provided. Perfect for 1-8 year olds and their loving adults.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Families, Interfaith, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Parenting, PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Mar
  23
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
 
Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington DC (GLOE - Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach & Engagement)
1606 20th Street NW, Washington DC 20009
Join GLOE for a night of drag, drinks, dancing, and a celebration of Purim! We'll serve the food and discounted drinks - you serve the Purim-inspired looks. We can't wait to see you there! Interested, but nervous because you don't know anyone yet? We'll connect you with a friendly GLOE community member in advance. Contact GLOE Program Manager Ariel Weinstein at arielw@edcjcc.org. Feel free to forward to a friend as well. Tickets: $10/person * * Participating should never be cost-prohibitive....
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, GLBT, DC, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  $10 - $24; $10

 
 
Sun
Mar
  24
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
 
Ms. Ellie Music (Adas Israel - shir a song location)
2825 Quebec Street NW, Washington DC 20008
Join me for shir a song classes—early childhood music and movement classes designed for babies, toddlers, preschoolers accompanied by a parent or caregiver. We sing and dance to non-Jewish songs and fun Shabbat and Jewish holiday songs, using finger plays, chants, percussion instruments, a variety of props, and dance and movement. Registration for the SPRING shir a song session is now open! Spring 2019 session: March to June Tuesdays at Adas Israel: April 2 - May 28 (8 classes) $175 9:30 & ...
Listed In:  Families, Early Childhood Educators, DC, Non-denominational, Children/Teens/Family, Arts & Culture, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Parenting
Event Cost:  more than $50; $175/8 classes, sibling & referral discounts avail

 
 
Sun
Mar
  24
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
 
Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCC of Northern Virginia-Community Engagement Department)
11660 Plaza America Dr, Reston VA 20190
Come join GJF for a fun morning of PJ Library stories and braid your own challah to take home and bake. This month we will learn about the Jewish holiday of Purim. Whole Foods provides the dough. You provide the creativity and sense of adventure. Bring your dough home to bake. Please RSVP to Jennifer.DeAngelis@jccnv.org so we can reserve enough dough. Questions: Contact Jennifer.DeAngelis@Jccnv.org Space is very limited. PLEASE RSVP!
Listed In:  Families, Interfaith, Northern Virginia, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored, Social Events
Event Cost:  Free; No charge

 
 
Sun
Mar
  24
11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
 
Tikvat Israel Congregation
2200 Baltimore Road, Rockville MD 20851
Tikvat Israel invites you to join us on Sunday, March 24 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. in the Social Hall for our revitalized Purim Carnival. Our Carnival is fun for the whole family and will feature: New Games! Bounce House! 30’ Long Inflatable Obstacle Course! Face Painting! Visit from the Kona Ice Truck! Prizes! Food! Silent Auction! (see information below) Wristband pricing: 0-2 years old FREE (games only, food available for purchase) 3-6 years old $5 for games only, $10 for games + meal 7-...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Seniors, Teens, Maryland, Conservative, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  $10 - $24; varies

 
 
Mon
Mar
  25
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
 
Temple Rodef Shalom
2100 Westmoreland Street, Falls Church VA 22043
Honored as one of Forward’s 50 most influential American Jews for 2018, Dr. Keren McGinity has been recognized for detailing the harassment she personally suffered in the Jewish institutional world and for issuing a broader call for a Jewish response to the #MeToo movement. McGinity is the inaugural director of the Interfaith Families Jewish Engagement Program at Hebrew College and an honorary research associate at Brandeis University. She earned her PhD from Brown University where she is a visi...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, College (Late Teens/Early 20s), Seniors, Women & Girls, Northern Virginia, Reform, Adult Education, History/Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Wed
Mar
  27
6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
 
American Jewish Committee
2850 Quebec Street, NW, Washington DC 20008
Join DC’s African American and Jewish young professionals for a Passover Seder as we share and explore the message of freedom from slavery that both communities share. Partner organizations: ACCESS AJC DC, Thursday Network - GWUL Young Professionals, Adas Israel Congregation, Operation Understanding DC, and People's Congregational United Church of Christ.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Interfaith, DC, Advocacy, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  $25 - $50; $25

 
 
Sat
Mar
  30
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
 
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
7727 Persimmon Tree Lane, Bethesda MD 20817
Biblical Wisdom and Contemporary Living It is commonplace to say that the Bible provides guidance for modern living. But in what way is this really true? Most people haven't a clue. Come explore with Rabbi Sid.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, College (Late Teens/Early 20s), Seniors, Maryland, Reconstructionist, Adult Education, Arts & Culture, History/Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sun
Mar
  31
9:00 AM - 12:30 PM
 
Temple Rodef Shalom (Treasures Judaica Shop)
4212 Technology Drive, Chantilly VA 20151
Temple Rodef Shalom will sponsor a Passover/Judaica Gift Pop-Up Shop. The shop will be open from 9am-12:30pm. There will be a variety of Judaica including mah jong items, jewelry, books, assorted gift items, as well as Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Chanukah, Passover and Shabbat items. Something for everyone. For more information contact Faith Abzug at Faith.Abzug@gmail.com, 319-329-9802 Community Invited.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Reform, Fundraising/Philanthropy, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  Free; Cost of items purchased

 
 
Sun
Mar
  31
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
 
Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCC of Northern Virginia-Community Engagement Department)
8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax VA 22031
Enjoy an afternoon of hands-on Passover experiences, connect with other families and have tons of Passover fun! Matzah making — mix it, roll it, and we’ll bake it; create your own Seder plate and Elijah cup (wine cup); decorate an afikomen bag (special bag to hide a piece of matzah) and more! Fee: $8 / $6 member/ 12 months and under are free Registration required by March 27. After March 27, email Laurie.Albert@jccnv.org for ticket availability.
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Jewish Federation Co-Sponsored, PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  $1 - $9; Fee: $8 / $6 member/ 12 months and under are free

 
 
Sun
Mar
  31
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
 
Tikvat Israel Congregation
2200 Baltimore Road, Rockville MD 20851
Four Questions: #1: Afraid that hosting a Seder takes too much work? #2: Feel that there’s NO way you could replicate your in-laws’ Seder? #3: Been to Seders but have no idea how to lead one? #4: Worried about how to keep children happy during a ritual meal? Beginner or Expert: Come join us for a model Passover Seder that is easy to replicate, kid-friendly, and meaningful. You will leave with the tools and confidence to create a similar experience at home. Kashrut observed. RSVP required - sher...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Families, Maryland, Conservative, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  $10 - $24; $10/family

 
 
Sun
Mar
  31
5:00 PM - 9:00 PM
 
Bender JCC of Greater Washington
6125 Montrose Road, Rockville MD 20852
The Bender JCC presents the 2019 Annual Women's Seder
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, College (Late Teens/Early 20s), Interfaith, Seniors, Women & Girls, Maryland, Arts & Culture, Culinary, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events, JWRP
Event Cost:  

 
 
Tue
Apr
  2
6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
 
600 I Street NW, Washington DC 20001
Whether you’re hosting a Passover seder or looking for some variety after too much matzah, learn to cook kosher-for-Passover recipes that won’t fall flat during this class led by in-house chef Vered Guttman. Demonstration and meal included. The menu includes: Moroccan haroset with dates, wine, and nuts Gluten-free tahini bread Quinoa, sweet potato, and Tuscan kale salad Moroccan pie of potato and dandelion (ma’akouda) Roasted chicken with pomegranate and date molasses Date and roasted walnut h...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, College (Late Teens/Early 20s), DC, Culinary, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  $25 - $50; $40

 
 
Tue
Apr
  2
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
 
SVIVAH
2450 Lyttonsville Rd, Silver Spring MD 20910
HerTorah gathers together a diverse community of Jewish women to connect over our shared heritage, explore our collective wisdom, and elevate our communal experience in learning with and from one another. The HerTorah program is curated by Aliza Sperling. HerStory: Making the Exodus Our Own - with Rachel Sharansky Danziger On Passover, we are instructed to tell the story of the Exodus in the first person. But how can we turn a story that happened to some distant ‘them’ into a story about us? Th...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, College (Late Teens/Early 20s), GLBT, Seniors, Women & Girls, Maryland, Non-denominational, Adult Education, History/Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost: