Though we read a regular Torah portion this Shabbat, Mikeitz, and continue the story of Joseph in Egypt, we add a short, final reading (maftir) from a different part of the Torah. This addition relates specifically to the holiday, to Chanukah, and then we continue with a Haftarah just for Chanukah as well. This may seem curious to
you, because the entire Torah - and indeed our Haftarah - are MUCH older than the holiday we're celebrating! Like hundreds and hundreds of years older!! But the rabbis found episodes in the Torah AND in the later prophetic writings that talked about OTHER dedications or rededications of holy spaces, and connected those ceremonies to the more modern Festival of Lights. Pretty crafty, those rabbis... So our Haftarah for Chanukah comes from the prophet Zechariah, who preached to the people around 530 BCE, when the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire, and allowed all the various groups enslaved by the Babylonians to return to their homes. Fifty years after their Temple had been destroyed, the Jews found themselves back in Jerusalem, planning a big reconstruction project! Enter Zechariah.
In his prophetic proclamations, Zechariah tells the people that God will return to Zion. He talks about the purification and investiture of the High Priests, and then shares a vision of a magnificent lampstand, a Menorah.
I like those images, but I want to add another thought to it. Every year, we - humans - have to light the Menorah. It's not like the Eternal Light in our sanctuaries, burning perpetually. When Chanukah returns, year after year, we have to actively light the candles and bring God's Presence into our lives. This is further strengthened
Chanukah reminds us to walk that middle line. As we light the candles, let us remember to maintain that vital balance. Bring God's light into our lives and our homes... and let our own light shine just as bright and vibrant as well. Chag Urim Sameach - Happy Festival of Lights!
Photos in this blog post: