Heschel Parent, Meredith Landy, delivered a compelling address to our community during this year’s Chanukkah Festival of the Arts. For those who may have missed it, the Heschel Hive is sharing her impactful speech here.
Good morning, and Chanukah sameach.
At the rally for Israel on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, I told Moreh Greg that I felt a deep need for Chanukah this year. Though I enjoy Chanukah every year, this year I really felt like I needed it. “What part?” he asked. “The light. The warmth. The connection to Israel. The Maccabees and the message that our small, but mighty army will ultimately prevail. The reminder that we need to have hope that we will come through the darkness. The levity. Maybe even the part about faith in G-d.” “So all of it!” he replied. We laughed.
I heard this sentiment reflected by Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi in this week’s episode of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s podcast For Heaven’s Sake. He shared that he has also derived a lot of strength from Chanukah this year, explaining that there is something especially powerful and direct about lighting the candles and what that mitzvah represents.
R. Avi Strausberg from the Hadar Institute relays the following teaching:
On their first day of life, Adam and Chava noticed that the sky was getting progressively darker. As light left the sky and darkness set in, they were scared. Adam cried out, “Woe is me because I sinned. The world is becoming dark around me, and the world will return to chaos and disorder. Adam and Chava thought the world was ending, and death was at hand. They both cried, but not together. Adam spent all night fasting and crying, and Chava was crying opposite him. Adam and Chava were afraid of the same thing, but rather than come together and comfort each other, they drew apart from each other, Adam in his corner and Chava in hers, their tears falling separately.
Sometimes when we are afraid, we turn away from each other. Sometimes we don’t want to say out loud the things that we are afraid of, lest somehow our words make it true. Perhaps we can barely handle our own anxieties, and fear that somehow combining them with someone else’s will magnify them even further. Maybe sharing the feeling of fear with someone else makes it all the more real and undeniable. Whatever the reason, in turning away from each other, we isolate ourselves from one another.
On Chanukah, our students sing “Banu choshech legaresh beyadenu or va’esh. Kol echad hu or katan vekulano or eitan” – “We came to banish the darkness – in our hands light and fire. Each of us is a small light, and together we are a strong light.” This song contains a deep message about the strength of joining together. When we are alone, each of us our own small candle, the darkness can overwhelm the light. But when we come together, each of our small lights join together to make one great light, which has the strength to banish the darkness. We are all plagued by fears and anxieties, both founded and unfounded. Perhaps one of the many lessons we can learn from the story of Chanukah is that, in moments of fear, there is strength in being in that experience of fear together.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of blessed memory teaches that lighting the Chanukah candles reminds us that we need to take action to bring about the brightness we want to fill our world with. Our Heschel community needs us to be the place where we come together – our staff, our students, and our facilities need our financial support so that they can be the brightest version of themselves. One of the goals of Heschel’s B’Yachad campaign is to receive a contribution from every single family. The magnitude of that contribution is not what matters most. What matters most is that through that contribution, you are affirming your commitment to this community and to its values. Wishing you a bright Chanukah. May we all – parents, grandparents, extended relatives, and friends – join together in support of our beloved Heschel school.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Meredith Herman Landy is a Clinical Psychologist practicing in Toronto, Canada. She has studied at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, and Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. She is a parent of children who attend The Toronto Heschel School.