Nothing tells the story of Hanukkah quite like its repertoire of songs. Each song emphasizes a different angle to the holiday–the fun of spinning the dreidel (Sevivon), God’s role in the miracle (Ma’oz Tzur), the power of the Maccabees (Mi Yemalel). But to me, there’s one song that is really what Hanukkah should mean in the 21st century: Banu Hoshekh Legaresh–We Have Come To Banish Darkness.” Sung to a serious, almost militaristic melody, this is the one song that to me expresses the true meaning of Hanukkah, and the ideal personal and communal Jewish mission statement.
Banu hoshekh legaresh
Beyadeinu or va-esh
Kol ehad hu or katan
Vekhulanu or eitan
Surah hoshekh hal’ah shehor
Surah mipnei ha-or
“We have come to banish darkness
Light and fire in our hands
Everyone is a small light
But together we are a mighty light
Leave, darkness, onwards black
Leave the presence of light”
On Monday evening, I went back to Far Rockaway, joined by clergy from dozens of faith communities representing Jewish, Catholic and Protestant houses of worship in Queens. We came together, joined by 500 residents of the Rockaways, to share our frustrations that six weeks after Hurricane Sandy, more than 11,000 homes on the peninsula remain without electricity, and even more without heat. A number of elected officials or their representatives were in attendance, and we seem to have grabbed their attention. My role was to reflect on the meaning of Hanukkah and its relevance to the present experience of darkness in the Rockaways.
All week since Monday, I’ve thought about what it means to banish darkness by bringing light. On Shabbat morning, I’d like to talk about practical ways for us as individuals and as a community to make these symbols come alive.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hag Urim Sameah,
Rabbi David Wise