The Talmud teaches that we should place our Hanukkah menorah ‘at the entrance to one’s house on the outside’ so that passersby can see it. If one lives upstairs, they place it ‘in the window adjacent to the public domain.’
The idea is that we should publicize the miracle. This has us celebrate the miraculous nature of the Hanukkah story and thus tell the world that the very idea of possibility exists. It has us lift up a tale of hope and faith in the face of tyranny and darkness that existed not only in biblical times but indeed today as well. Absolutely, in a season of cold weather and bitter politics, no shortage of anti-Semitism, hate rearing its ugly head everywhere we look, we have no choice but to shine the light of heritage and Jewish survival, miracles and our communal fortitude.
It goes without saying that anti-Semitism is dangerously widespread today. We see it here and abroad. We find it in our children’s schools, in government, in public spaces, and online. Since the recent egregious comments by Kayne West and Dave Chapelle, I have been asked by various parents how we should respond to anti-Semitism today.
My answer is clear:
- Wear your Judaism with pride.
- Stop hate speech whenever you hear it (no matter how seemingly minor).
- Advocate for and support causes that fight for justice and equality.
- Don’t play politics with anti-Semitism. Whether it’s coming from the left or the right, it must be called out.
The Talmud will discuss whether we should still display the menorah publicly in times of danger. It notes that, ‘in times of danger, one may place it on the table’ (i.e., inside) and that this still counts as ‘sufficient to fulfill the obligation.’ Many of the Talmud’s rabbis were living in times when Roman rule was either a reality or a not-too-distant memory. Under such rule, kindling the lights of the menorah would be forbidden, even punishable by death. This would of course not be the only time in Jewish history when practicing Judaism put one at risk. And yet, generation after generation, our people found a way to raise up their Judaism against all odds and in the face of every oppressor. They staunchly put their lights in the window because their Judaism mattered to them and they wanted to impress upon their children that we will not hide who we are.
If your grandparents and mine could live their Judaism with conviction and with courage, then surely so can we.
Let your light shine, my friends. Light your Hanukkah lights with joy and with pride. May we go from strength to strength together and continue to be the bright light to a world so much in need of it.