Kislev is a dark month. The days get shorter the nights longer. In Israel it is cold and wet. And yet Kislev is the month of hope. Within Kislev, at the end of Kislev, falls the holiday unique not only in Judaism but in history. We call it the festival of light. Some think that is because of the Hanukiah the 8 branch Menorah with the bright little Shamash in the middle. But the Hanukiah came later. No the light that is Hanukah has to do with an ideal, the ideal of religious liberty. When the Greeks conquered Israel there was no fight. When they imposed taxes, we did not complain. When they brought their culture to our shores some embraced it. After all who could complain of hot tubs? The Greek games interested some of our people as did the clothing and language and the philosophy shared. Some objected to the price of admission, the libation offering to the Greek gods. Some shook their heads at the proliferation of idols of Greek gods and statues of naked men. But that did not cause the war against the Greeks. We went to war when they entered our Temple, when they sacrificed pigs on our alters to their gods. We went to war when our religious liberty was outlawed. Hanukah celebrates the only war in history fought only for religious liberty. We were not fighting for independence or against Greek culture. We fought for freedom to worship our G in our way without interference.
This year, at the beginning of Kislev they came again to defile our place of worship, this time in Mumbai India. Reports say that there were 9 or 10 places targeted for death and destruction. Only one was a religious institution, the Habad house. In that house were rooms for weary visitors, kosher food for guests, a shul for worship and a couple, 29 and 28 who ran the house and opened its doors to anyone in need of sustenance, physical or spiritual. When, in Mumbai, terror broke out, terror broke into the Habad house targeting Jews. Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his 28 year old wife Rivka were slaughtered. Their son, Moshe whose birthday came but a day later, was rescued by Sandra Samuel, an Indian nanny who worked there for years. She found him crying beside his parents’ bodies, his pants drenched in blood. Some 2000 years after the Greeks defiled our Temple with blood; terrorists came again and defiled our Temple with blood.
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chair of education arm of the Habad movement which includes the shlichim such as Reb Gabby Holtzberg and Rebbetzin Rivka Holtzberg (A’H) gave the Jewish response to the darkness of terror and repression, a response as old as Hanukah itself. He said: “We call upon all Jewish women and girls to brighten the profound darkness the world is witnessing and usher in Shabbat by lighting the Shabbat candles.” When the darkness of Kislev comes, when the darkness of terror, of religious hatred and intolerance threaten our world, we do not curse the night nor do we hide from the fight. We light the lights of freedom and tolerance of hope and holiness.
I know not what your personal custom is. But you might consider adding the lighting of Shabbos lights as a tribute to the people, not just the Jews, but all of the, over 180, slaughtered in the name of religious intolerance. When the darkness falls we must light.
This is the season of Hanukah the festival of lights. Each year we light our candles sing our songs and give our gifts. This year let us reflect the light of the Hanukiah on the events of this month; events from ages ago, events from days ago. Let this Hanukah be a time of renewal and rebirth, a time of hope and a time of light. And let every Shabbat be a small reminder of the great challenge that we face, to light our lives, to lighten the burden of fear and hatred and enlighten a world torn by violence and intolerance.