The word Hannukah means “dedication” in Hebrew. Our dedication refers to the eight day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Macabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent and “rededication” of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The ORacle, December 2010 Issue
At the moment of rededication, the Maccabees relit the ner tamid, the eternal light in the Temple. The ner tamid symbolizes God’s constant presence with us. Its endurance signifies a hope that God’s presence will continue to dwell with us for all generations (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 22b).
The Torah teaches that this ner tamid is not only lit in the Tabernacle or synagogue. Each Jew must also light the ner tamid in their own heart, a divine light. Let us commit to kindling this flame in our communities, at work, and in interactions between our fellow humans (Pardes Yosef, Itturei Ha Torah, a collection of Chassidic and ethical teachings on Torah verses).
I would like to suggest that this Hanukkah we celebrate the holiday by choosing eight social justice causes to dedicate ourselves keeping the ner tamid burning within our community. There are innumerable causes to consider:
1. Ner Shel Tzedakah (A Candle of Righteousness)
Ner Shel Tzedakah invites families to donate the value of the gifts (or the gifts themselves) that they would otherwise exchange to tzedakah.
2. Help Kids in Developing Countries Receive a Quality Education
Free the Children, a Canadian based organization run by and for children, sponsors a school-building campaign to ensure that all kids receive the education they deserve and to help break the cycle of poverty. Through Free the Children, you can raise money to build schools, create kits of school supplies to send to needy children, and participate in trips to developing countries to build schools and participate in community development. For more information visit www.freethechildren.com.
3. For High School and College Students: Participate in SPROUT and SHOUT
Through the Student Health OUTreach project (SHOUT) and the Student Poverty Reduction OUTreach program (SPROUT), two student-run programs of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), high school and college students partner with community-based organizations to reach out and enroll all eligible children in federal health-insurance programs and other poverty reduction programs. Information on both projects is available at www.childrensdefense.org/studentoutreach.
4. Donate a can of food to a local food bank or volunteer to help out during the week of Chanukah.
5. Donate a gently used Judaica item to the World Union for Progressive Judaism (www.wupj.org) for a newly formed Reform synagogue in the Former Soviet Union or other country around the world.
6. Donate children’s books to a local hospital (www.reachoutandread.org) or donate books of all ages to a local homeless shelter.
7. Visit the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life’s (www.coejl.org) Hanukkah website for holiday eco tips for giving a gift to the earth through environmental stewardship. You can give a gift to your home such as an energy efficient appliance or a compact fluorescent light bulb.
8. Visit the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry’s (www.nacoej.org) website for donation ideas such as sponsoring a child’s lunches for the year or the RAC site for Lech Lecha to a Place of Hope—The Million Quarters Project.
9. Make a donation to Mazon (www.mazon.org) such as 3% of the amount you are spending for a holiday dinner.
10. Make a chai donation to charitable organization in the name of a family friend or loved one.
11. Nothing But Nets: Donate $10 for an insecticide-treated bed net to Nothing But Nets to help stop the spread of malaria.
May the ner tamid blaze with the light we bring into our world.
Chag Hanukkah Sameach