The lights of the menorah that shine bright for the eight days of Hanukkah, which this year began Dec. 22, are reminders of the noble Maccabees, who bravely stood up to tyrannical King Antiochus of Syria despite his intolerance and persecution of anyone who practiced Judaism.

After the Maccabbees reclaimed and started to rebuild their house of worship that had been ransacked by Syrian forces, their leader Judah Maccabee found just enough oil among the ruins to keep the temple’s eternal flame aglow for a single night. Miraculously, the flame continued to flicker for eight full days.

Redemption and renewal

Through the celebration of Hanukkah many centuries later, as a time of redemption and renewal, the Jewish people carry forth a strong spirit to withstand the virulent anti-Semitism that persists to this day.

Although Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights, it only is the menorah that is illuminated during its eight days.

As a youngster, I wondered why our houses weren’t all lit up like the homes around us? I even wrote a letter to the president of Saks Fifth Avenue to ask,

“Where are the Hanukkah decorations?”

You can read his reply to me at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, where it is on permanent display as a reminder that, in America, we can speak up and have our voices both heard and acknowledged.

The Hanukkah menorah serves as a beacon to remind all humankind that even the tiniest flame can cast enough goodness and light to purge evil and brighten the world.

Note: Congregation Shir Shalom co-hosts a joint Hanukkah Shabbat celebration at Temple B’nai Chaim at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, with music and readings, led by Rabbi Rachel Kay Bearman and Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray. It is open to the community, which is invited to bring their own menorahs.