How to do Chanukah, 2012



How to Do Chanukah

By Rabbi Michael Lerner


Chanukah is the holiday celebrating the triumph of hope over fear, light over darkness, the powerless over the powerful. It begins this Saturday night, Dec. 8th and end at dark on Sunday, December 16th.  If you happen to be in the Bay Area, you are invited to Beyt Tikkun synagogue-without-walls’ Chanukah celebration on Saturday night, December 15th (the eight night) at the southwest corner of Cedar and Bonita from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Details at You don’t have to be Jewish to participate.


So tell the story that way. It is a more powerful way then the current Americanization of Chanukah: “They oppressed us; we beat them, now let’s show how much we can spend on gift and lets eat latkes.”  No. Recognize that Chanukah is about understanding that when we connect with the transformative power of the universe, the Force of Healing and Transformation, YHVH, we become aware that the powerless can become powerful, that oppression of any sort is in contradiction to the fundamental nature of human beings as loving, kind, generous, free, creatjve, intelligent, attuned to beauty, caring for and needing each other beings created in the image of God. When that energy and awareness permeates our consciousness, no ruling elite and no system of exploitation can possibly last for very long.


The formal way: lighting one candle (and one “shamash” or service candle) the first night, then adding an additional one to the left of the first one each night (so total of 3 candles including the shamash the 2nd night, 4 candles the 3rd night) and always starting on the right hand side of the Menorah as it is facing you and moving more and more to the left each night.


Dedicate each night to a liberation theme.


First night:  End the domination of oil and coal. Dedicate this night to working out plans to challenge the energy industry and to demand that the Obama administration on the Congress seriously address global warming with, at minimum, a significant tax on carbons. But also plan how you will move from fossil fuel energy for your home to wind and solar!


Second night:  Challenge the materialism and orgy of consumption that happens around these December holidays each year.  Instead of giving gifts of things, give gifts of time or energy (e.g. “My gift to you this year,” you might tell your friends, “is to give you four hours of my time to ….take care of your kids while you go out to an evening on the town, mow your lawn, repair you back deck,  fix your broken lamp or stairs, give you a massage or a Feldenkreis session, do food shopping for you with your list of what you need, etc.”).


Third night:  Recommit to peace and justice for both sides in the Middle East.  Read the last chapter of Embracing  Israel/Palestine. Send a letter to Obama and to your Senators and Congressperson telling them that the U.S. must stop siding with the Netanyahu government and instead support the peace movement in Israel. Write to the local rabbis and tell them the same thing. Be courageous and forthright.  And challenge the violence oriented people on both sides! Recommit to only support strategies that rely on non-violence. Refuse to accept any claim that Israel is “the Jewish state” as long as its government refuses to act in the spirit of the highest ethical vision of the Jewish tradition, and refuse to equate Judaism with the current practices of the Israeli government. Yet do this with compassion for the Jewish people, including the Israeli people, who are still recovering from centuries of psychic wounding, and deserve compassion and not just criticism!

Fourth night:  Rededicate your energies to end Global Poverty—send a letter to each local city council person, the mayor, and your state legislature representatives and your Congressperson asking them to publicly endorse and pass a resolution supporting the Global Marshall Plan . Don’t let anyone convince you to settle for partial remedies that merely alleviate the worst suffering—put your energies to ending (not ameliorating) poverty (both domestic and international.


Fifth night:  Rededicate your life to expressing loving and caring energy wherever it is needed. Do acts of unprovoked lovingkindness to strangers, but equally difficult for many, to your parents, children, and people who have not been kind to you.


Sixth night:  Welcome the immigrants.  Demand that the media start considering a more radical approach to immigration: namely, the elimination of  all laws blocking immigrants from coming and getting jobs. How to not have out country overrun by too many people seeking a new economic start? The Global Marshall Plan. The immigration problem will be solved when people have enough material well being in their country of birth.


Seventh night:  Rededicate your  energies to celebrating the wonder and mystery of the universe by celebrating Shabbat (which in 2012 begins on the seventh night).  We spend so much energies on what isn’t right in the world, but on Shabbat we get 25 hours to celebrate at the beauty and goodness of all of creation, including ourselves and each other!!


Eighth night: Rededicate your life to serving God or the spiritual/ethical energy of the universe, however you perceive Her/Him/It, by living in love, generosity of spirit, compassion, forgiveness, and joy, fully aware and fully present to the gifts that we receive every moment from the Force of Life and Goodness. Serve God by being the most holy and loving being you can be. And accept that you are enough, there is enough, and we can share and take care of each other.  And if you happen to be on the West Coast that night, come celebrate with us at Beyt Tikkun (info at






One thought on “How to do Chanukah, 2012

  1. Thank you for these ideas, Rabbi Lerner!

    Here’s an additional idea: it is very loving and liberatory to stop eating animals’ parts and products.

    The system of carnism works hard to block our awareness of where our food comes from. But more and more people are realizing that eating animals and their products is not a given, it’s a choice. And the kinder choice is to go meat-free, egg-free, dairy-free whenever possible.

    I stopped eating animal parts/products several years ago, and I’ve never been happier or healthier. Peace and liberation to all!

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