Hanukkah Night 8: Adding Light Displaces The Darkness – Rabbi Morris Panitz – Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

December 25th, 2022 — Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

Happy Hanukkah, everyone. My name is Rabbi Morris Panitz and I want to share something about Hanukkah that’s going to throw a little curveball in how you understand this holiday.

The miracle of Hanukkah is that there was just enough oil for one night, but instead it burned and it lasted for eight nights. So if our lighting of the hanukkiah is meant to reenact this miracle.

The question I have is, why don’t we just light one candle that burns for eight nights or add enough oil so that our hanukkiah is aglow for all eight nights of Hanukkah?

That’s not what we do.

Instead, each night we reapproach the table and light the hanukkiah. One more candle for each night. So why did the Sages of our tradition ask us to light the hanukkiah this way instead of one continuous burn?

I think there’s great honesty and wisdom in this approach. There’s a recognition that we don’t live in a world of continuous light.

Instead, each night, each day of our lives, we have to make the conscious decision when it’s dark around us, when we’ve been knocked down, when the world looks bleak, to instead come to the table and add a little bit more light.

And it’s gradual. We don’t start with eight candles. We start with one light each night, adding a little bit more.

So this Hanukkah, I bless us with the courage to know that each night all we have to do is add a little bit more light. And that’s what displaces the darkness.

Hanukkah Sameah.

Hanukkah Night 7: Look For The Miracles – Rabbinic Intern Hannah Jensen – Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

December 24th, 2022 — Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

Hi, i’m Hannah Jensen, one of the rabbinic interns here at. IKAR. When we talk about Hanukkah, we talk a lot about miracles. And the ultimate of these miracles is one that many of us learned about as really young children. And that is the miracle of the oil.

When there was all of this fighting in this temple, then in the rubble, they were able to find only a tiny amount of oil, enough to last one day.

But they wanted enough oil for eight, and so they burned the oil, assuming it would last one day and it lasted all eight days.

This miracle has been so important that it has sustained our stories about Hanukkah for generations, and miracles have even found their way into one of the blessings we say every night of Hanukkah.

She-asah nisim la-avoteinu, Blessed are you God who made miracles for our ancestors, bayamim hahaeim, in those days.

But then something strange happens. It concludes ba-z’man ha-zeh, in this time. In our time. It’s as though there’s a coma or something.

Yes, God made miracles for our ancestors in their time, but also for us in our time. We’re so focused on these ancient miracles. They feel so big, so deserving of being part of our lore. But we miss so many other miracles.

What miracles are we missing with our gaze focused solely on our ancestors?

There are so many miracles that take place just for each of us to get out of bed in the morning and go about our day. Every breath, every step we take, every story we tell is a product of miracles.

What miracle brought you to this moment?

As we find ourselves in this Hanukkah season, just remember yes, she-asah nisim la-avoteinu ba-yamim ha-heim, yes, God made miracles for our ancestors in their time, but also b’az’man hazeh. God also makes miracles for us in our time.

Hag Sameah

Hanukkah Night 6: Which Candle Do We Light First? – Rabbi David Kasher – Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

December 23rd, 2022 — Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

Happy Hanukkah, everybody. Tonight is the sixth night of Hanukkah, but tonight is also Shabbat. So tonight we will be lighting two sets of candles, the six candles for Hanukkah with that seventh Shamash lighting candle and then the two classic Shabbat candles.

So, this raises a technical halakhic question. That is, which of the candles do we light first, the Shabbat candles or the Hanukkah candles? Well, the answer has to be the Hanukkah candles, because once we’ve lit the Shabbat candles, then Shabbat has begun and we’re not supposed to kindle anymore flame.

So we light the Hanukkah candles first, a little earlier than usual, and allow them to burn later into the night. And then we turn and light the Shabbat candles and begin Shabbat. Now having these two sets of candles sitting there next to each other also allows us to consider a spiritual difference between the two lightings.

What are the Shabbat candles for? The Talmud, says mipneh shalom bayit, for the sake of peace in the home. In other words, we’re going to need light in our house on Shabbat if we’re going to be able to enjoy Shabbat so that we’re not crashing around into things and cold and confused and generally feeling unsafe.

So the Shabbat candles serve the functional purpose of lighting our homes so that we can enjoy Shabbat. The Hanukkah candles on the other hand, we famously declare when we light them, an lanu reshut lihishtamesh bahem, meaning we’re not supposed to use the Hanukkah candles for any purpose at all.

The only reason that we have Hanukkah candles is to gaze upon them and to think about the miracles that were done for our ancestors, to feel a sense of gratitude and to praise God. They’re just there to appreciate for their beauty and for what they remind us of.

They have no functional purpose at all. So the same substance, fire, but one usage in a very practical, functional way, and the other, for purely spiritual purpose. Now, the Talmud raises the question, which takes precedence? If you only have enough money to buy Shabbat candles or Hanukkah candles, which ones do you buy?

And the answer is Shabbat candles. Not because Shabbat is more important. But because the Talmud says Shabbat candles are for shalom bayit, for the peace in the home, and that takes precedence. So on this night of Shabbat and Hanukkah, it’s an opportunity to remember that we have places in our tradition for just appreciating beauty and feeling; a sense of wonder and gratitude.

But, at the end of the day, peace and safety and the ability to dwell in our homes with a sense of security takes precedence. And we’ve got to put that first. So wishing you a happy Hanukkah and a Shabbat of peace.

Hanukkah Night 5: Shine Your Own Light – Rabbinic Intern Sammy Kanter – Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

December 22nd, 2022 — Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

Happy Hanukkah, everyone.

My name is Sammy Kanter. I’m one of the rabbinic interns here at IKAR.

An element of Hanukkah I know we all find beautiful is the light that it brings into the world during this dark and cold time.

However, an element that I really love about Hanukkah is that our tradition commands us to bring our own individual personalized light into the world.

In the Talmud, it lists the commandment or mitzvah that each household should light a hanukkiah.

However, the Talmud continues to say “וְהַמְהַדְּרִין, נֵר לְכׇל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד” meaning Those who are zealous in fulfilling the mitzvah or those who seek to beautify the mitzvah, those people should have each and every member of the household light the hanukkiah.

That’s the tradition we’ve had in my family, both growing up and now. Each one of us lights a hanukkiah and we get to choose what that hanukkiah is each year based on our energy.

Maybe it’s an old family heirloom. Maybe it’s that arts and crafts hanukkiah made at synagogue many years ago. Or maybe it’s the new cheap one off the shelf at Target.

We each bring our own hanukkiah to the table and light. And I always see this as a vehicle for our own individual light to be spread out into the world.

So this year, as you light your hanukkiah, I invite you to think about what the hanukkiah is saying about the light that you want to bring into the world.

What about the colors, the texture? Even the theme of the hanukkiah is serving as a vehicle for you to spread your light.

And as we light this year, may we also think about what personalized, individual light our world needs from us. May we all have the creativity, the vision and the courage to let our own light shine bright this year.

Hanukkah Night 4: The Last People in the Shuk – Rabbi Ronit Tsadok – Hanukkah Kavannot 2022/5783

December 21st, 2022 — Hanukkah Kavanot 2022/5783

My name is Ronit Tsadok. I’m one of the rabbis here at IKAR.

The question that I want to think about together tonight is when should we be lighting Hanukkah candles? In the Talmud, Masekhet Shabbat 21B asks this question and says, “From the time that the sun sets up until the time that the foot traffic ends in the shuk, in the marketplace, and specifically the Talmud says until the feet of the tarmoda’ei are done in the shuk.

We’ll understand that a little bit better in a second.

But what does it mean that we light from when it’s dark until the last people leave the marketplace?

So, there’s one explanation that’s the most well-known explanation, which is whenever you’re able to light anywhere between those times, then you can light because we need to make sure that we’re performing the mitzvah, the obligation, of pirsumei nisa, of publicizing the miracle by having our Hanukkah candles in our window or outside our door. And it needs to be seen by people. And so as long as there are people leaving the shuk, leaving the marketplace, we can still light our candles.

So those can be seen. But there’s another interpretation in the Talmud that’s actually really interesting and gives us a little insight and a different way of looking at this mitzvah, of putting our light in the windowsill.

And that says that actually the time of lighting the candles whenever we light it has to be able to last all the way until those last people, the tarmoda’ei leave the marketplace.

It’s not about us. It’s actually in some ways about the people who are out there working late into the night.

So who are the tarmoda’ei? Rashi a famous Rabbinic commentator, says they’re the ones who were collecting wood. They were collecting wood once everyone else had left the market.

So that if I went home at 6:00 or 7:00 and realized at 9:00 or 10:00 or 11:00 that I didn’t have enough wood to heat my home I would go out, and I would be able to buy it from them, the people who are working late into the night for us.

And so what does this interpretation offer us?

Well, it’s less about my candles being the light and being seen by other people. And maybe it’s a little bit more about us making sure that we see them and that we pay attention to people who are out there in the world, long after we’ve made it home and are cozy in our homes ourselves. To ensure that we’re actually seeing their light, these tarmoda’ei, the people who collected wood are literally the people who enable us to have light in our homes.

What do we need to do in order to see those who are still out in the world, those who are helping to make it possible for us to have light in our homes? We need to see them and look into their eyes, to recognize their value and their dignity, and shine our light in both directions.

Hanukkah Sameah.

Hanukkah Night 2: Pirsumei Nisa – Rabbi Keilah Lebell – Hanukkah Kavannot 2022/5783

December 19th, 2022 — Hanukkah 2022/5783

Hey IKAR! this is Rabbi Keilah Lebell Wishing you Hanukkah Sameah from Chattanooga, Tennessee.Since we moved from L.A. my kids started asking if we could put up Hanukkah decorations. We do put out dreidels, and we dust off our Hanukkiot. But this year, that wasn’t enough.They wanted to display Hanukkah outside, at the front of the house, the way our neighbors have been doing in preparation for Christmas.I told them that our family doesn’t have a tradition of decorating in that way. For Hanukkah, though, I know some Jewish families do. But we do have a different of displaying Hanukkah to our neighbors.During Hanukkah, we don’t simply light the candles.We’re supposed to actually place the hanukkiah in a place where people will surely be able to see it and at a time that they’ll definitely be able to see it.The rabbis instituted this very intentional display of the Hanukkah lights for the sake of what they called pirsumei nisa, which means publicizing the miracle.They taught that we don’t only celebrate the miracles of Hanukkah in the privacy of our homes and synagogues. We have to proclaim that miracle to the public, announcing to anyone who walks by Jewish or not Jewish, that these miracles took place throughout Jewish history.That act of pirsumei nisa of publicizing the miracle and placing our hanukkiah in the window has carried different violence because of where Jews lived and who their neighbors were.And there were certainly times, even for some Jews today, when it wasn’t safe to put your hanukkiah in the window.When we lived in L.A. and put our hanukkiot on the windowsill, I was confident that most people passing by, even the non-Jewish folks, would have more than an inkling of what the candles mean.Now that we live here in Chattanooga, where there are only a few thousand Jews and we are without a doubt the only Jews living in our subdivision, I’m not sure what our neighbors understand when they see the hanukkiah in our window.But what I do know, though, is that the neighbors that we have made connections with, the other parents I chat with at the bus stop, the folks walking by who let my kids pet their dog. The people we have gotten to know, they’re the ones who know who live here and know that we’re celebrating a Jewish holiday.And I’ve been discovering each of their unique stories and origins and religious affiliations.We know the Catholic lady from Chicago across the street with the two tiny dogs. We know the Muslim family down the street from Turkey. The husband drove my husband to the E.R. when he cut his finger one night washing the dishes. We know the Seventh-Day Adventist couple who just dote on our kids and love that we also celebrate the Sabbath.And through our short conversations, we’ve developed an unspoken commitment to care for each other as neighbors when they walk by and see the candles in our window. They know who let them and know that we’re celebrating our unique heritage and faith.So as we lay out Hanukkah candles tonight, think about who from the outside will see them. Let’s reflect about our relationship with our neighbors, with our neighborhood, with our city.Do you feel connected to the folks walking by?Do you feel afraid to put your Hanukah in the window?Do you feel safe sharing who you are?What would it take for you to feel more connected to them?As we celebrate and reflect on these questions together, I hope we feel inspired this year to connect not only with each other, but with those outside our doors as well.Hanukkah Sameah.



The Essence of Hanukkah: Creating Light or Kindling Fire?-Rabbi Morris Panitz-November 27, 2021 – Is the work of transformation primarily about building positive habits or rooting out negative behaviors? Lighting the hanukkiah offers a glimpse into both strategies and a challenge for the 8 nights of Hanukkah.

To Soften the Darkness-Shabbat Vayeshev 5781-Rabbi Sharon Brous-December 12th, 2020 – Our Jewish tradition calls us to be extremists in one way and one way only: in the fight to mitigate the darkness and bring more light into the world. A look at Hanukkah in dark times, America’s fatal attraction to the death penalty, and our stubborn insistence that we can and must do better.

Hanukkah in May-Shabbat Behar Behukotai-Rabbi David Kasher-May 8th, 2021 – We are, thank God, finally coming back to pray together in person. So what will this experience of reentry be like for us, after having been apart for so long? In our tradition, we have a word for this act of rededication: ‘Hanukkah.’ And if the Hanukkah ceremonies of the past are any indication, this will be a complicated emotional process.

Joseph, The Real Hero of Hanukkah?-Shabbat Vayeishev-Rabbi David Kasher-December 21st, 2019 – The way the Jewish Calendar tracks with the cycle of reading the Torah, we are always in the Joseph story during Hanukkah. And so, every year, there are a slew of valiant rabbinic attempts to somehow link the figure of Joseph to the themes of Hanukkah. But all of this effort is a bit ironic, since Hanukkah seems to celebrate the Maccabees resisting cultural assimilation, whereas Joseph is perhaps the most successfully assimilated character in the Torah. Yet it is precisely for that reason that Joseph may be just the Hanukkah hero we need.

By The Hand of a Woman: Judith and the Miracles of Hanukkah-Shabbat Miketz-Rabbi Sharon Brous-December 8th, 2018 – In an era of radical reclamation, what will we learn when marginalized stories move to the center?

The Light That Will Shine-Shabbat Miketz-Rabbi Sharon Brous-December 16th, 2017 – Rabbi David Hoffman teaches that Hanukkah is about “experiencing fear, vulnerability, and darkness and not being consumed.” May 2018 be the year in which the sun starts to bring greater and greater light into our days and our hearts.

Winter Solstice-Shabbat Vayashev-Rabbi Nate DeGroot-December 24th, 2016 – Hanukkah, our little festival of light, comes in the dark of winter to proclaim that great miracles are possible if only we take the first step.

Against the Dying of the Light-Shabbat Vayetzei-Guest sermon-Rabbi Adam Greenwald-December 10th, 2016 – Talking Hanukkah, light, and spiritual resistance in a dark time.


Hanukkah Bootcamp with Rabbi Kasher – 12.8.20

IKARites Darkness in the Light stories:

Karim Abay

Diana Phillips

Enshea Daniel

Flora Woo

Nick Weiss

Rabbi Miriyam Glazer


Hanukkah in a Time of Renewed Hatred-A Note From Our Rabbis-Rabbis Brous, Rabbi Kasher, Rabbi Tsadok & Rabbi Lebell-December 30th, 2019