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COMMENTARY: Chanukah – A message of hope

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Mendy Stern
  • Brigade Chaplain, 106th Signal Brigade & Jewish Chaplain, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston

Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Lights celebrating the victory of light over darkness, begins this year on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, and concludes on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, at sunset.

More than 2,100 years ago, a small band of faithful Jews – the Maccabees – defeated the Assyrian Greek army that had occupied the land of Israel. Against all odds, they reclaimed the holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to G-d.

When the Maccabees sought to light the Temple’s menorah, they found only enough ritually pure olive oil to light for one day. Yet miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days until more could be prepared.

We commemorate this triumph by lighting an additional candle each night of Chanukah, progressing from one light the first night to eight on the final evening.

In times of darkness, whether from oppression in ancient days or from modern-day terror and antisemitism, the lighting of the menorah provides hope.

Even when evil threatens from without or within, we must have faith that G-d’s divine providence will see us through, just as the tiny cruse of oil miraculously shone for eight nights.

In the U.S. today, we continue this tradition by prominently displaying menorahs to share the light of religious freedom.

Soon after settling America, our founding fathers established Thanksgiving to give thanks for arriving in a secure land free from religious persecution. This faith in G-d has been celebrated in America ever since.

You, America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, carry forward the brave spirit of the Maccabees. Like those ancient heroes, you bear the great privilege of protecting religious liberty so that light can triumph over darkness. Our nation deeply honors your selfless service.

As you serve to illuminate the world with the light of freedom this Chanukah, our prayers are with you and your families for a season filled with joy and celebration.

May we all strive to become “a beacon unto the nations,” working towards a world free from oppression and united in peace.

We pray that the Flame of Freedom shines brightly across our land, kindling hope and liberty, while standing as a steadfast warning to oppressors everywhere. This embodies the spirit of Chanukah, a testament to the enduring power of light over darkness and freedom over oppression. May this spirit guide us all.

This Chanukah, you are invited to partake in the holiday by lighting your Chanukah Menorah and celebrate with your family. Celebrating Chanukah is a testament to Jewish perseverance and the significance of light over darkness. It is a beacon of hope in a world that can sometimes seem filled with shadows.

In today’s world, which is unfortunately full of antisemitism and hatred, lighting a Menorah is a statement of resilience. It is a symbol of our commitment to fight darkness with light, to counter hatred with love, and to stand tall in the face of adversity. It is a lighthouse guiding us through the stormy seas of intolerance.

Just as hundreds have gathered recently to celebrate Shabbat Against Antisemitism, Chanukah is an opportunity to take a stand. It is a chance to affirm our commitment to religious freedom and mutual respect. It is a time to remember that a little light can dispel much darkness, and that each of us can contribute to that light.

We thank You, G-d, for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time. (Chanukah praises, Siddur)

JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Chanukah Events:

Chanukah Service and Observance

  • Date: Friday, Dec. 8, 2023
  • Time: 5 p.m.
  • Location: JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Military & Family Readiness Center, 3060 Stanley Road, building 2797

Family Chanukah Celebration

  • Date: Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023
  • Time: 7:30 pm
  • Location: Stern Residence - 2795 Dickman Road, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston

For more information and RSVP, call 210-221-2549 or 347-387-2899.

San Antonio Chanukah Events:

Chanukah Cruise Experience

  • Date: Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023
  • Time: 3:30 p.m.
  • Location: Arneson River Theater, 418 Vallita St.
  • Includes Menorah boat ride, singing and Chocolate Gelt
  • At 4:30 p.m., there is a 9 foot Menorah lighting and the Pumpidusa band from New York live in concert with free admission; a Kosher dinner will be available for purchase.

 

Chabad Israeli: Magical Chanukah Evening

  • Date: Dec. 12, 2023
  • Time: 6:45-11:45 p.m.
  • Location: Chabad Israeli Center, 15511 Oak Grove Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78255
  • Contact: Rabbi Tal Shaul, Chabad Israel Center San Antonio, 210-877-4218 or email rabbi@israelichabadsa.com.
  • Chabad Israeli Center celebration for the entire Jewish community

 

Jewish Federation of San Antonio: Hanukkah at Sea World

  • Date: Dec. 17, 2023
  • Time: Noon to 9 p.m.
  • Location: Sea World San Antonio
  • Contact: Samantha Mazuz, San Antonio Jewish Federation, 609-515-3808 or email mazuzs@jfsatx.org.