Chanukah during COVID in 2020

Tuesday, 30 November, 2021 - 10:18 pm

 Every year, we send a Chanukah letter to alumni of Chabad of SIU. Here's last year's letter:

This year’s Chanukah (Dec.10-18) looks to be one of the most peculiar ones in modern history.

The ‘Festival of Lights’ conjures up images of family gatherings, passionate dreidel contests, latke frying (with the age-old discussion: dip it in ketchup? Applesauce? Sour cream?), donut consumption and of course, lighting the menorah together.

But with current health regulations in place, it seems like all this will have to happen in small, sometimes lonely circumstances. The good news is that as Jewish people, we actually already have experience with this. Just take a look at the original Chanukah story:

More than 2000 years ago, the Jewish people lived in the Holy Land under the rule of the Syrian-Greek. Not really nice guys, those Syrian-Greeks. They were of the opinion that the Jewish religion is way too outdated for their modern views (fun fact: over 2000 years later, we have the exact same religion, people still call us outdated, so there seems to be nothing new there) and thought a little friendly oppression would do the trick to squash Judaism. So, they outlawed things like keeping Shabbos, performing circumcision, studying Torah, all under penalty of death.

It was under these circumstances that the Jewish people had to find creative ways to keep up with Jewish practice. We can’t invite everyone for a cozy Shabbos dinner? We’ll do it quietly, by ourselves in our own home. Can’t gather for public Torah study? We’ll do it quietly, by ourselves in our own homes. Can’t make a grand celebration to welcome a new baby boy into the Jewish covenant? We’ll do a private ceremony with just the parents and the ritual circumcizor, by ourselves in our own homes. Because when we’re faced with a situation in which we can’t perform our Judaism in one way, we’ll do it in another.

Part of the story of Chanukah is that the Syrian-Greeks entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, ransacked the place and went berserk opening up every sealed jar of menorah oil they could find. They knew that when those jars where contaminated with spiritual impurity, the Jews wouldn’t be able to light the very public menorah in the Temple.

When the Jews finally reclaimed the Temple, the first order of the day was looking for pure oil. They found one tiny jar, enough to light the menorah for one day. Production of a new shipment of pure oil would take 8 days. They did the best they could under their circumstances and decided to light the menorah with the one jar they had. Miraculously, it lasted the full 8 days it took for new oil to arrive.

And from then on, every year, every Jewish household lit a menorah in their own home for 8 days, commemorating this miracle. From trying to squash the communal grand menorah, it led to every single home lighting their own! Instead of extinguishing one menorah, they caused millions to be lit around the world!

That is something we can learn a lesson from, especially this year. We can’t gather in large celebrations (not quite under penalty of death, rather out of respect for local health authorities) but we could make sure that every single Jewish household, no matter with how many occupants, will light their own menorah, celebrate Chanukah in solitary style. Because nothing and no one can stop us, not a tyrannical Syrian-Greek army, nor a tiny COVID-19 particle.

[Just one request: if you do end up having to celebrate completely by yourself, don’t argue too loud about your latke dip preferences.]

With best wishes for a happy and healthy Chanukah,

Comments on: Chanukah during COVID in 2020
There are no comments.