/ Notes for the Field

Notes for the Field

Hanukkah During a Dark Time: A New Ritual

Meditations for Lighting Hanukkah Candles 2023
Rabbi Justus Baird is a Senior Vice President at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He directs the North American Kogod Research Center and oversees the Institute’s interfaith and intergroup work. Prior to joining Hartman in 2019, Justus was the Dean of Auburn Seminary. He was ordained at HUC-JIR and is an alumnus of both the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and the Hartman Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI). Raised in Texas, Justus lives in Montclair, NJ,

What will it feel like to light Hanukkah candles when our Jewish family and friends in Israel are still at war? 

Hanukkah is the first Jewish holiday since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 and the subsequent war began. Perhaps more than any year in recent memory, we need assistance finding and expressing joy. We also want a way to stay connected to Israel as we celebrate the festival of lights. This Hanukkah lighting guide is one way to accomplish that goal. 

This guide was originally developed for use in Israel by the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Center for Ritual. It features a brief meditative reading to set an intention for each of the eight nights, each one focused on a different value: heroism, mutual responsibility, belonging, peoplehood, hope, consolation, faith, and peace. 

Setting an intention—a kavanah—before lighting each candle accomplishes several things. It shifts our mindset from the mundane to the sacred, readying us to do something holy, even at a time when the holy can feel out of reach. It turns our hearts toward Israel and gives voice to our concerns for our own wellbeing as Jews outside of Israel. And it gives our minds a clear thought to focus on. Whether you use them at home or out in community, for just one night or all eight, these intentions offer us a way to bring more meaning to the practice of lighting Hanukkah candles in a dark moment.  

This Hanukkah lighting guide was written and developed by Rivka Rosner, Hagit Bartuv, Adva Hacohen Boumendil, and translated by Levi Morrow. May their words help us find connection, inspiration, and light during this difficult Hanukah period.Justus Baird, Senior Vice President, Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.

Read and download a copy of this ritual in English here.
Read and download a copy of this ritual in Hebrew here.
Find the original Hebrew website for this ritual here.

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