Thursday, December 09, 2004

May the Light Increase

What comes into our minds when we think of Hanukkah? The struggle for religious freedom, the need to preserve Jewish culture, the pitfalls of Hellenism, the triumph of the few over the many—these are all valid answers. But here is one of my favorite legends about Hanukkah from the Talmud, one that goes all the way back to Adam.

When Adam [the first human] noticed that the days were getting shorter, he said: “Is the world becoming darker because of my sins? Will it soon return to chaos? And this is what God meant when He punished me with mortality?” He prayed and fasted for eight days. When the period prior to the winter solstice arrived, he saw that the days were now growing longer. He realized: This is the way of the world. Adam then made eight days of celebration. (Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 8a)

Here’s to the victory of light over darkness, both in the outer world and within ourselves. Happy Hanukkah.

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