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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Tue
Jan
  22
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
 
Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS Annette M. & Theodore N. Lerner Family Upper School Campus)
11710 Hunters Lane, Rockville MD 20852
Former CESJDS Parent and author, David Brooks, author of The Road To Character, will speak about his newest book.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Seniors, Maryland, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Wed
Jan
  23
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
 
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington)
TBD, Washington DC 20852
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
Leadership Development Series with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington's Young Leadership. More details to come
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Adult Education, Leadership Development, Professional Development, Fundraising/Philanthropy, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Leadership Development, Networking, Professional Development, Social Events, Volunteer
Event Cost:  

 
 
Wed
Jan
  23
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
 
Jewish Study Center
2850 Quebec St, NW, Washington DC 20008
Tu B’Shevat is the Jewish holiday that reminds us of our love for, and dependence on, the natural world.  Join us for the fourth annual JSC Tu B’Shevat Seder at Adas Israel! We’ll attune ourselves to the earth’s rhythms and cycles, tasting the three types of fruits and seven species of foods from the land of Israel. We’ll enter into “tree consciousness” and sing Tu B’Shevat songs. On a practical level, we’ll be hearing from a speaker involved in climate change work about positive signs of hope...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Seniors, DC, Non-denominational, Adult Education, Culinary, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  $10 - $24; Adas, JSC members $20, others $30

 
 
Fri
Jan
  25
7:00 PM - 7:45 PM
 
Temple B'nai Shalom
7612 Old Ox Road, Fairfax Station VA 22039
Please join us for a very special Tot Shabbat featuring Jewish rocker Sheldon Low! Tot Shabbat is especially for newborns through second graders, and their parents. The service includes lots of music, child-friendly prayers, and stories and activities. It lasts about a half hour and is followed by a special kid-friendly oneg. We will look forward to seeing you at this wonderful service!
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Reform, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jan
  26
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
 
Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCC of Northern Virginia-Community Engagement Department)
2908 Valley Drive, Alexandria VA 22302
Share Shabbat with families from the JCCNV's Growing Jewish Families program and visit different synagogues services around NoVA on our Tot Shabbat Train. Our next stop is Agudas Achim Congregation! Join Growing Jewish Families Saturday morning at Agudas Achim Congregation. Services begin at 11 am. Highlights include: singing, musical instruments, stories, and tot-sized prayers. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. There is no dress code and there is no shushing if your little one can’t sit st...
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jan
  26
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim
3501 2nd St S., Arlington VA 22204
Short family havdalah service, followed by roller skating! Bring $ for snacks. No havdalah experience required!
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  $1 - $9; $2 entry, $3 skates

 
 
Sat
Jan
  26
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
 
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (PJ Library in Greater Washington)
131 Gibbs Street, Rockville MD 20850
Join Pop-Ups to Pop In! to welcome a new week with family and friends. We will begin with a singalong Havdalah ceremony led by Miss Ellie, followed by ice skating, hot chocolate, and other activities. Check-in with us at the Pop-Ups to Pop In! table to receive a discount on your rink admission. Pre-register for this event and get a special gift! Great for all ages.
Listed In:  Families, Interfaith, Maryland, Non-denominational, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored, Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Wed
Jan
  30
8:15 PM - 9:25 PM
 
Jewish Study Center
2850 Quebec St., NW, Washington DC 20008
The 150 religious poems that make up the Book of Psalms are deeply familiar and deeply strange. Entwined in both Jewish and Christian tradition, they form the backbone of the liturgy and yet speak to us in a modern, sometimes perplexing voice. We’ll read, compare translations and trace the powerful imagery in these works. Readings in English. Amy Schwartz is president of the Jewish Study Center and opinion and book editor of Moment Magazine
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, College (Late Teens/Early 20s), Interfaith, Seniors, DC, Non-denominational, Adult Education, Arts & Culture, History/Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  more than $50; 4 sessions: JSC, Adas members $55, non-members

 
 
Fri
Feb
  1
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim Preschool)
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Join us on the first and third Friday mornings of each month for a Shabbat-themed hour of play and song. Contact Preschool Director Alexis Joyce at preschool@etzhayim.net for more information or to tour our school. There is NO PLAYGROUP on the following Fridays: 11/16/18 12/21/18 4/19/19
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Feb
  1
5:30 PM - 9:00 PM
 
Temple Shalom
8401 Grubb Road, Chevy Chase MD 20815
Temple Shalom First Fridays Tot Shabbat 5:30 PM Congregational Potluck 6:15 PM Erev Shabbat Family Service 7:30 PM
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Maryland, Reform, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored, Social Events
Event Cost:  Free; Free

 
 
Fri
Feb
  1
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
 
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington)
TBD, Washington DC 20852
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
Leadership Development Series with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington's Young Leadership. More details to come
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Adult Education, Leadership Development, Professional Development, Fundraising/Philanthropy, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Leadership Development, Networking, Professional Development, Social Events, Volunteer
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Feb
  1
6:15 PM - 8:15 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim (Conservative))
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Join us for a delicious and vibrant potluck dinner on the first Friday of every month following the Kabbalat Shabbat service. This is one of our most popular events, especially with families with young children. Services start at 6:15pm. Dinner starts at approximately 7:30pm. Potluck Guidelines Food should be vegetarian (dairy or pareve ), made using hekshered ingredients, and brought in a disposable pan/container. Food cannot be heated in our kitchen. Not a home cook? Pick up something heksh...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Interfaith, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Feb
  2
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
 
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (PJ Library in Greater Washington)
1409 Main St., Gaithersburg MD 20878
Save the Date for Shaare Torah's annual Pajama Havdalah! We will have breakfast-for-dinner, crafts and a multisensory, interactive Havdalah celebration. This program is a partnership of PJ Library in Greater Washington and Shaare Torah.
Listed In:  Families, Interfaith, Maryland, Conservative, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  

 
 
Wed
Feb
  6
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
 
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington)
TBD, Washington DC 20852
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
Leadership Development Series with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington's Young Leadership. More details to come
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Adult Education, Leadership Development, Professional Development, Fundraising/Philanthropy, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Leadership Development, Networking, Professional Development, Social Events, Volunteer
Event Cost:  

 
 
Wed
Feb
  6
8:15 PM - 9:25 PM
 
Jewish Study Center
2850 Quebec St., NW, Washington DC 20008
The 150 religious poems that make up the Book of Psalms are deeply familiar and deeply strange. Entwined in both Jewish and Christian tradition, they form the backbone of the liturgy and yet speak to us in a modern, sometimes perplexing voice. We’ll read, compare translations and trace the powerful imagery in these works. Readings in English. Amy Schwartz is president of the Jewish Study Center and opinion and book editor of Moment Magazine
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, College (Late Teens/Early 20s), Interfaith, Seniors, DC, Non-denominational, Adult Education, Arts & Culture, History/Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  more than $50; 4 sessions: JSC, Adas members $55, non-members