We start our Festival of Lights — Chanukah — two days from now on Sunday evening, just 3 days before the shortest and darkest day of the year. From childhood on, I have always loved the idea that we start with one candle on the first night, then add a second candle on the second night, all the way up to eight candles on the eighth day.

There is a beautiful simplicity in these images. The holiday itself celebrates a successful rebellion against a foreign ruler bent on the obliteration of religious Judaism. We won with great difficulty, tiny lights of rebellion pushing back against an oppressive darkness. We feel that same spirit of rebellion here in winter, in how our menorah candles push back against the increasing darkness of this season. It raises our spirits.

The first candle fights back against the darkness. It is a solitary protest. It flickers and casts a narrow glow. But that first candle eases the path to light the second, and the two candles offer a quiet power that nourishes the third. In turn, the third candle inspires the fourth, until finally, the eighth candle in the company of seven others bathes us in light with the darkness vanquished.

We also place our Chanukah candles near a window, facing outward into the world, trying to light up the world beyond our own homes. This light pushes out into the world, just as we are asked to do — to step out and protest the status quo through actions that repair and create a better world.

Just like our candles — one becoming two and then three – our actions are about taking small steps that sometimes don’t seem to matter. But those small steps, one after the other, somehow do make a difference, not by the size of the steps but because we are seen. And when we are seen, maybe just maybe we encourage others to take their own small steps, their actions and their lights joining ours.

Every step we take to repair the world lights a candle into the world, inspiring the next and the next and the next to be lit. Let the fullness of our eight candles and a world of light always be our goal.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Allan