Tonight we begin the celebration of the holiday Hanukkah.
Hanukkah means dedication, and the holiday itself represents the rededication of the Temple that was dishonored by Antiochus IV in 165 BCE. and then restored by the valiant struggle of the Maccabees.
However, in a much larger sense, this occasion should be a rededication of all the things that we hold dear in our Jewish and American life.
During this holiday we light eight candles. These candles are lit on succeeding nights.
The first night, we light one; the second night, two; the third night, three; the fourth night, four; the fifth night, five; the sixth night, six; the seventh night, seven; and the eighth night, eight. This gives us an opportunity each day to rededicate each of the previous candles and to reaffirm the high qualities they represent.
The eight candles represent, in order, the following:
We use a pilot candle with which to ignite the other candles. With the first candle we kindle, we hope to illuminate in our minds and hearts the first word, “Faith.”
People who fought to rededicate the Temple were people who held in their hearts real and true faith – faith in the God of Israel and faith in the dignity of their own persons and their own souls. The victory of the Maccabees was a practical demonstration of their faith. But faith can be shown in many ways other than war.
There is the faith that we must have in God, the faith that we demonstrate by our conduct toward each other. We pray, to bolster our faith in those things we believe in. We pray to pay homage to God, and by doing so our faith becomes illuminated, just as this candle illuminates the darkness around it.
We must have faith, too, in our nation. This we must demonstrate by taking part in its activities and by living our lives as decent and respectable citizens.
There is the faith that we must have in our parents and the faith that they must have in their children; the faith of the flock in the rabbi and of the rabbi in his people; the faith that exists between student and teacher; doctor and patient; the faith between spouses; and finally, the faith of all people in each other.
We cannot blindly assume that all things will always turn out well, but we must have faith enough to overcome our disappointments, our frustrations, and believe that most people believe more in good than they do in evil.
As we look at this first candle tonight, let us reaffirm once again all these different kinds of faith. Let us thank God for His wisdom and for His guidance.
The righteous shall live by his faith. (HABAKKUK 2:4)