As I was walking the streets of Jerusalem last night I loved looking at the chanukiyot. Those that were in the windows, the giant ones on the street corners, and the smaller ones in glass boxes outside people’s houses.
Besides for realizing that this will most likely not be my Chanuka experience next year, it made me think about Sukkot.
Sukkot we sit outside of our homes. We are told to do everything out there: eat, sleep, work, play, etc. At least here in Israel, it is warm outside, so for most of the week it is comfortable. It is a chance to say goodbye to the summer, and welcome in the fall. It is a time that when you walk the streets you hear noise. You hear the conversations that usually happen behind closed doors (or permanent walls). You can see what people are eating for their meals. And in many places, because of the way apartments are, you end up eating with other people and other families, but not as their guests, rather as people using a “shared dining room.”
And then there is Chanukah. The ideal way of lighting the chanukiah is to light it outside by the doorpost so that everyone can see. It can be cold (rainy, snowy, etc). But you will still see people bundle up just to light candles and sing some songs. Even though it is a public/private ritual, meaning that anyone who passes can join in, and this is a time of a private ritual done in a very public place, everyone at their own time. But even with this, after the ritual is done, the people go in, all that is left is the candles burning.
Candles burning make no noise. When they are in their little box they offer no heat. But what they do offer is light. There are extra little lights along the alley ways. There are extra little lights along the main streets. There are little flames dancing about, even at midnight- slowly burning down.
One holiday is warm outside, the other is cold. One is watching people do their everyday activities, the other is watching a ritual. One is through sound, and the other through sight. One is through noise, the other though light.
They both offer a sense of community. In the time after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we need the reminder about the people around us, and the beauty of the world that we were just praying for and worrying about. In the middle of winter, we need to take it into our own hands and add fire and light. Even after we might run inside to get warm again, the light stays.
May the light of this chanukah continue to spread throughout the year, at least till next Sukkot when we are able to recharge our feeling of greater community again.