Chanukah: Light up the dark

By Pat Hirschl

Days shorten. Darkness threatens. If you were the first man, you might fear the sun would disappear.

“When primitive Adam saw the day getting gradually shorter, he said, ‘Woe is me, perhaps because I have sinned, the world around me is being darkened and returning to its state of chaos and confusion. This then is the kind of death to which I have been sentenced from Heaven!’ So he began keeping an eight days’ fast and prayed.”

Talmud, Avodah Zarah 8a

Poor Adam. He had already suffered through his first sunset, anxious the sun would never return. He deduced dawn would come again, unlike the Aztecs, who went to bloody lengths to coax the sun up every morning. It is a mythical fear; all those dark nights when we wonder if we will ever see the sun rise again.

Chanukah Celebration
Party, religious observance
Sun, Dec 1, 5pm
Jewish Cultural and Community Center
Las Moras 47
Corner of Cinco de Mayo

Adam hung on, and when he saw the days lengthening, he inaugurated an eight days’ festivity to mark the season. That festival survives in the Jewish tradition as Chanukah, reflecting Adam’s joy at the sun’s return. The modern Jewish practice is to light candles every night for eight nights, and connects the custom to another historic event, long after Adam’s time.

In the quoted passage, Adam comments that “the heathens” celebrated, too. Not surprising, since practically all religions of the Northern Hemisphere celebrate a festival of light at the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. A nighttime stroller through any town north of the Equator in late December might encounter Hanukiot, Christmas trees, torches and bonfires lighting up the dark nights.

In San Miguel de Allende, the Jewish community celebrates Chanukah with latkes, dreidels, candle lighting, and its very own traditional menorah construction. Participants bring canned or non-perishable food items to assemble into a magnificent menorah–the higher, the better. The food later goes to So Others May Eat, a venerable local charity that feeds a crowd every Wednesday in the Parroquia patio.

All are welcome to join the fun on Sunday, December 1, at 5pm in the new Jewish Cultural and Community Center, Las Moras 47, corner of Cinco de Mayo. Bring food or drinks to share, canned food for the menorah tower, and a menorah if possible. No fixed charge; donations gratefully accepted.

Note: Material for this article was taken from writings of Rabbis Guido Cohen and Joshua Kullock.


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