Hanukkah is often referred to as the Festival of Lights. We add one candle to the Hanukkah menorah each of the eight nights of Hanukkah to commemorate the miraculous victory of the Macabees as well as the miracle of the small cruse of oil that lasted eight days instead of one. When we look at the candle light and recite the accompanying blessings we are in essence thanking God for these past miracles and for the daily miracles in our lives today.

Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe from 1950-1994, spoke of the connection between candle light and the responsibility of Jews in today’s world. He writes, “A Jew is a lamp lighter on the streets of the world. In older days, there was a person in every town who would light the gas street-lamps with a light that he carried at the end of a long pole. On the street corners, the lamps were there in readiness, waiting to be lit: a lamp-lighter has a pole with a flame supplied by the town. He knows that the fire is not his own, and he goes around lighting all the lamps on his route…Today, the lamps are there, but they need to be lit…A Jew is one who puts personal affairs aside and goes around lighting up the souls of others with the light of Torah and mitzvoth. Jewish souls are in readiness to be lit…That is the true calling of a Jew- to be a lamplighter, an igniter of souls.”

After reading this parable by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Hanukkah candles take on a whole new layer of meaning. The candles now also serve as a reminder that we have responsibility to do good in the world and to be “igniter of souls.” And while we have responsibility to ignite the souls of others, we also must light our own souls and find meaning and purpose to our own lives.

The Jewish Community Center is a place that offers several outstanding programs for all ages to do just that- help nourish your spiritual soul. These include education classes, holiday workshops for families, Tot Shabbats, Jewish parenting classes, the New Jewish Theater, Jewish authors at the Book Festival, films at the Jewish Film Festival, Jewish learning opportunities and much more. To learn more about getting involved to nourish your spiritual soul either at the JCC or in the Jewish Community at large feel free to visit the J website at www.jccstl.org or Jewish community website at www.jewishinstlouis.org.

Best wishes for a festive and joyful holiday season,

Rabbi Brad Horwitz