This was a brief lunch-time Chanukkah activity that I crafted for my fellow students at Leo Baeck College. The purpose of the activity was to not only see Chanukkah as the celebration of a military victory or of Divine intervention but rather as a celebration of inner transformation as we move from darkness into light, from our inner values to an outer expression thereof. Feel free to use it if you like it - just credit me.
Your Inner Light Channukah Group Activity
The Rabbis transformed Chanukkah from being a military commemoration to a feast celebrating the Chanukkah ‘miracle’ of the oil fueling the lights of the Menorah for eight days. The essence of Chanukkah to the Rabbis was ‘pirsumei nisa’, the ‘publication of the miracle’ (T. Bavli, Shabbat 21a). Hence, we are commanded to light lights, increasing in number every day (according to Beit Hillel) and place them in window sills or doorways. In other words, we have to let our light shine!
How about if we extend the rabbinic metaphor even further? We are commanded to be an ‘or l’goyim’ (Isaiah 42:6) and let our Jewish values of oneness and justice shine through. But how can we be a light unto the nations if we cannot let our inner light shine? Is it a coincidence that we celebrate the miracle of a very private, invisible light: that of the Temple, by lighting public lights? There is a correlation between the external and the internal. Let us explore this further.
In these dark days, we need light. Outside and inside. In order to strengthen our outer light, we must strengthen our inner light. Here are a few exercises for doing this.
- Music and song: surround yourself with uplifting music (i.e. Matisyahu)
- Light a candle. Reflect on what inner light means to you. What are the internal values you would like to express externally (pirsumei nisa)?
- Chanukkah also relates to a spiritual battle: what forces of ‘assimilation’ (i.e. losing part of yourself or your identity) have you overcome in the name of your own integrity/authenticity?
- What do you consider miraculous in your life?
- The miracle is that the oil burnt for eight days. Reflect on when you were surprised to find that you inner light burnt longer than expected. When were the moments in your life that you were so much stronger than you thought you would be?
- The candles lit during each night add up to 36 (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8=36) and this corresponds the the Gematria of the ‘lamed vavnik’, the 36 mythical righteous who light up our world with their righteousness. Who do you consider your lamed vavnik in your life?
- Here are cards for you to write. There are two exercises. Write a small blessing/compliment to each of those present and let the cards rotate. When you finally get your own card, write a small blessing/compliment to yourself. Keep this card by your Chanukkiah when you light it each day to give you winter cheer!
- Write a few cards for the staff we appreciate at our workplace.
- Eat nosh and sing some more!
Chag Chanukkah Sameach!