Rededication: 8 Teachings and Practices for Hanukkah

Lighting Hanukkah Candles

In Rededication, a series for Hanukkah 2017 by Rabbi Yael Levy, we are invited to lift up the light for the well-being of all. What follows are teachings and practices for each night of Hanukkah.


First Candle: Eyes of Wonder

As we light the first candle and enter the Festival of Hanukkah, we give thanks for arriving to this moment and we acknowledge the blessings and the challenges of this past year. In the radiance of this first light, we give thanks for moments of connection, awareness, kindness, and love and we also honor the experiences of disappointment, sadness, and pain. 

As Hanukkah begins, we rededicate ourselves to looking at the world with eyes of wonder and awe. We rededicate ourselves to noticing the blessings and lifting up the good. We do this not to deny hardship but rather to strengthen ourselves and enhance our capacity to bring goodness into the world. On this first night of Hanukkah, we join with the psalmist in saying:

Open my eyes that I might see the wonders of the unfolding path. Psalm 119:18

Practice: Sitting Quietly with the First Light

Finding a comfortable place to sit in view of the candles, we let the attention rest on the breath as we gaze at the light of the flames. We notice the shape, texture, and colors of the fire.

Each time we notice that the mind has wandered, we bring ourselves back to the breath and focus on the flames. After the candles have burned about half way down, we whisper to ourselves three things we feel grateful for and repeat the verse of the psalmist:

With my whole heart, I give thanks to the One,
With my whole heart, I will speak about the wonders of life.  —Psalm 9:2

Action: Radical Kindness

The times we live in call for radical kindness. In honor of the first light of Hanukkah, we look for ways to act with kindness toward those we encounter as we go about the day.

We begin the festival with this song by Matisyahu and this short video that lifts up the beauty and power of acts of loving-kindness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwAYpLVyeFU

Two Candles: Gratitude for Creation

As we light the candles welcoming the second night of Hanukkah, we rededicate ourselves to caring for the earth. In the beauty of the flames, we remind ourselves that we live in an interdependent relationship with all beings, with all life. We affirm that this living, breathing planet nurtures and sustains us and that everything we do affects the well being of all. On this second night of Hanukkah, as we light the candles, we give thanks for creation, and we name places that offer us beauty and refuge.

Bless the Mysterious, Infinite Unfolding of all, my soul. —Psalm 104:1

Practice: Awareness of Interdependence

Taking our seats, we close our eyes and let the attention rest gently on the breath. After a few moments, we call forth beautiful, inspiring images of nature: trees, sky, rivers, birds, animals—and we remind ourselves that one breath, one life force flows through us all.

With each breath, we invite the awareness that we breathe together with all beings and all the earth. One breath, one life force flows through all. As we close the sit, we give thanks for the beauty and bounty of the earth.

Action: Help for the Earth

In honor of the second day of Hanukkah, we give tzedakah to one of the many organizations dedicated to the well-being of the planet.


Rabbi Yose the Galilean says,
Whatever the Holy One, Blessed be God,
created in the world, God also created in each of us . . . .
God created forests in the world and God created forests in each of us . . .
God created a wind in the world and God created a wind in each of us . ..
God created a sun in the world and God created a sun in each of us . . .
Salt water in the world and salt water in each of us . . .
Sweet waters in the world and sweet waters in each of us . . .
Stars in the world and stars in each of us . . .
Mountains and valleys in the world and mountains and valleys in each of us . . .
Trees in the world and trees in each of us . . .

—Avot de Rabbi Natan 31

In this video, Peter, Paul and Mary remind us that this land is made for all of us.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGsz0eV-Ckk

Three Candles: Building Bridges

On this third night of Hanukkah, we lift up our values and ideals and the ways in which we long for our world to be healed. We name and honor people who work for justice. In the light of the candles we pray for the courage, wisdom, and the willingness to reach across our differences and build bridges of connection for the sake of our nation and the world.

We rededicate ourselves to finding common ground.

From the mystery, the Holy One gazes upon humankind to see if there is someone who has the good sense to seek God in all.  —Psalm 14:2

Practice: Blessing Meditation

Taking our seats, we set an intention to offer prayers for ourselves and nine other people creating a minyan of blessing within and around us.

Letting the attention rest on the breath, we begin with ourselves and say in our heart/mind:

May I be blessed with love,
May I be blessed with peace,
May I be blessed with well-being.

Then, bringing to awareness three people we love easily, we say to each of them in turn:

May you be blessed with love,
May you be blessed with peace,
May you be blessed with well-being.

Then we bring to awareness someone in our lives with whom there is some pain and need for healing and we say to this person:

May you be blessed with love,
May you be blessed with peace,
May you be blessed with well-being.

We then bring to heart/mind two people in the public sphere whose values and actions align with ours and say for each of them in turn:

May you be blessed with love,
May you be blessed with peace,
May you be blessed with well-being.

We then bring to heart/mind two people in the public sphere with whom we disagree on a political or social issue and say for each of them in turn:

May you be blessed with love,
May you be blessed with peace,
May you be blessed with well-being.

We call to awareness someone in our lives that we deeply appreciate and say for this person:

May you be blessed with love,
May you be blessed with peace,
May you be blessed with well-being.

We close the sit by saying:

May all beings be blessed with love,
May all beings be blessed with peace,
May all beings be blessed with well-being.

Action: Making Calls

We call and offer thanks to an elected official who has taken stands that affirm our values and concerns.

We also call an elected official with whom we disagree and urge him/her to consider another point of view.

Here is a great rendition of Bob Marley’s "One Love"—It’s One Love around the world.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xjPODksI08

Four Candles: Welcoming Shabbat Rest

As we light the Hanukkah candles, and then the Shabbat flames, we rededicate ourselves to gifts of Shabbat. Shabbat calls us to stop, to rest and remember that pausing and resting are sacred practices that bring us into deeper and more expansive relationship with ourselves, each other, and the Mysterious Unfolding of Life.

We invite our Shabbat rest to inspire wonder, awe, and appreciation and, as the candles burn, we name something good we have noticed or experienced this past week.

On the seventh day we rest and refresh our souls.  —Exodus 31:17

Practice: Unplugging

Let us consider “unplugging” for some of Shabbat. Let us invite the experience of not engaging with email or the Internet and seeing what it feels like to not use our computers during this day.

Let us notice and experience moments of beauty and connection. Let us look at the world with wonder and amazement and give thanks for the food we eat, the beauty we behold, and the people we encounter.

Let us also invite ourselves to rest and nap.

Five Candles: Honoring Our Own Gifts

As we enter the fifth day of Hanukkah, we rededicate ourselves to acknowledging that the Sacred Presence shines in every being. There are some people whose light shines so brightly—and there are others whose actions make it impossible to see even a sliver of goodness in them. On this fifth night of Hanukkah, we honor the lights we each offer to the world. And we honor our own lights: the talents and gifts we bring through the uniqueness of who we are.

It is sometimes challenging to acknowledge our own gifts and blessings. In the light of the Hanukkah candles, we remind ourselves that the world needs our light.

The world is made whole as we each offer what is ours to give.

As we light the flames, we name aloud some of the gifts we offer and set an intention that, as the candles burn, they clear away anything that is in the way of our light shining through.

Yes, I will offer blessings with my life,

To all that is I lift my hands.  —Psalm 63:5

Practice: Sitting with the Light

Taking our seats and bringing ourselves to an upright and awake posture, we let the attention rest on the breath. After a few moments, we set an intention to see/feel a light inside of us, an aish tamid, an eternal flame, glowing.

With each breath, we notice the flame’s color, shape, and texture.

Whenever we notice the attention has wandered, we gently bring ourselves back to refocusing on the aish tamid and feeling its presence. We close the sit by giving thanks and joining with the psalmist in saying:

I will walk in the Sacred Presence in the light of life.             —Psalm 56:14

Action: Sharing Our Gifts

On the fifth day of Hanukkah, we seek ways to share our gifts and blessings with each other. We take note of what we love to do, what we do well, what comes forth from us with ease, and we honor these gifts, reminding ourselves that what comes easy to us is a blessing that is ours to share. During this day, we watch for opportunities to reach out and offer our gifts to one another. We also set an intention to receive each other’s gifts and offerings with appreciation.

Here is Bruce calling us all to shine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5Vm8uaCiRw

Six Candles: Interconnection

We welcome the sixth night of Hanukkah and the new month of Tevet by honoring the interconnection of all life. As we light the candles, we acknowledge that the choices our great, great, great grandparents made have helped create this very moment, and the choices we make will help create the lives of people we will never know. In the illumination of the flames, we rededicate ourselves to living with the awareness of interdependence. With each candle, we name an instance of wisdom or guidance that we have received from our ancestors, our companions, and/or from someone whose life touched us for a moment. And we also remember that often, even with out knowing it, we are guides for each other.

Send forth your light and your truth, they will guide me.  —Psalm 43:3

Practice: Connection to the Earth

We take our seats, and with the attention resting on the breath, we feel ourselves held by the earth. With each breath comes the awareness that the earth holds us all in a loving embrace.

After a short time, we imagine roots reaching from us to deep within the earth. The roots extend through the soil and the water table and connect and intertwine with roots from all over. With each breath, we draw forth sustenance from the earth and from our rooted connection with each other. Every time we notice the attention has wandered, we bring ourselves back by returning to the breath and the sensation of being held by and rooted in the earth. As we close the sit, we set an intention to pause during the day, lift our eyes to something around us, and remember the interconnection of all life.

Action: Asking for Help

For many of us, asking for help is not easy. We are often more comfortable in the position of offering help. However, when we ask for assistance, we are creating the opportunity for connection and giving someone the gift of making an offering. We are in a time when all of us want to do something—anything—that will make a difference. In honor of the sixth day of Hanukkah, let us make a connection with someone by asking for help.

Lean on Me, heard around the world:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiouJsnYytI

Seven Candles: Lifting Up Joy

On this seventh night of Hanukkah, we continue welcoming the new month of Tevet and we rededicate ourselves to celebration and joy. It can be so easy to become overwhelmed and caught in despair by what is going on in this country and throughout the world. Without denying this reality, we lift up the delights of life.

Naming and noticing moments of joy, finding reasons to celebrate, joining in laughter and play strengthens and renews us. It gives us energy and increases our capacity to deal well with whatever we encounter. Embracing joy honors life and inspires new possibilities and direction. As we light the candles, we name and illuminate delights we have experienced and joys we have shared.

This is the day the One has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.  —Psalm 118:24

Practice: Expressing Gratitude

Taking our seats, resting the attention gently on the breath, we focus on gratitude. Giving thanks opens the heart and increases our experiences of joy and well-being. With gentleness, we say to ourselves, Modah Ani, I am grateful. Over and over again, we repeat this phrase, Modah Ani, I am grateful.

Sometimes gratitude comes easily and we feel filled to overflowing. Other times gratitude is much more difficult to reach. When this happens, it is imperative to be kind and compassionate with ourselves.

With continued gentleness we say Modah Ani, I am grateful. If we are able, we name for ourselves ten things we are grateful for.

We close the sit with the words of the psalmist, saying for ourselves:

My heart is happy.
My soul rejoices.
My whole being dwells in trust.     —Psalm 16:9

Then we say for three other people in turn:

May your heart be happy.
May your soul rejoice.
May your whole being dwell in trust.

Action: Sharing Gladness

In honor of the seventh night of Hanukkah and Rosh Hodesh Tevet, we give tzedakah to an organization that is dedicated to bringing goodness into the world. We also do our best to move slowly as we go about our day, noticing beauty, creating moments of connection, and taking the opportunity to share joy or gladness with someone.

Enjoy Natalie Merchant singing and dancing to “These are the Days”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23YVo2j5SN4

Eight Candles: Rededication

As we come to the eighth and final night of Hanukkah and the fullness of the light, we rededicate ourselves to living and acting in alignment with our highest values. We focus attention on all that we love; we raise up our ideals and visions and set an intention to let these lights shine.

As we do, we acknowledge how our country and the world is being desecrated by actions, laws, and executive orders that assault our values, our democracy, and the well-being of people and the planet. And in the face of all of this we declare our commitment to act with love for justice, for dignity, and peace.

In the lights of the eighth night of Hanukkah, we commit to acting even when so much lies in ruin. We commit to acting, not knowing if our actions will be successful. We will act for the sake of the rightness of the action itself. We will act for connection. We will act for the sacred. We will act in honor of all that we love and value.

Let the lights of the season guide us. Let the Sacred Mystery hold us. And let the love that flows through all creation bring us comfort, inspiration, and strength.

Come let us walk together in the light of the One. —Isaiah 2:5

Practice: Setting Intentions

As we light the candles, we say aloud or to ourselves what we want to rededicate ourselves to in this moment in our own lives and the life of the world.

We then take our seats by the flames, and with the attention resting gently on the breath, we sit with the fire, noticing the light, the shape, and textures of the flames. With each in-breath, we draw in the light of the Sacred Mystery and let it fill us to overflowing. With each out-breath we feel the sensations of the light pouring through us into the world.

We set an intention to be comforted, warmed, and strengthened by the light and to let it shine through us into the world. At the close of the sit, we give thanks and ask for help and guidance to live well what we love.

Action: Noticing the Miracles

In honor of the eighth day of Hanukkah, we notice the miracles of creation that fill our everyday world. We pause and give thanks for the food we eat, for the beauty we behold, for moments of connection we share.

Sometime during the day, we ask ourselves the questions:

How can I best be of service?
How can I shine my lights?
What can I do to bring love, goodness, justice into the world?

We place these questions upon our hearts with gentleness and love and open to the guidance arising when it will. We remain aware and careful about not berating ourselves or giving ourselves a hard time about not doing enough. We remind ourselves that we are all here together, and each of us brings blessing into the world by living the fullness of who we are.

Take some time to listen and watch this magnificent rendition of "We Shall Overcome" with Bernice Johnson Reagon and many friends at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration.

Let it inspire and uplift us all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW2MRTqzJug

Complete Ceremony

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