Chanukah – חנוכה- Dedication
As we enjoy the way our Chanukah Menorot bring light to this dark time of year … we will start by shining some light on the name of this holiday. First of all, let’s get the ‘correct’ English spelling of it out of the way. There is NO correct way to spell Chanukah in English. It is a Hebrew word spelled ח–נ–ו–כ–ה. English is mere phonetics. Any way you spell it in English that gets it pronounced correctly … is correct!
The word is most commonly translated as ‘dedication’. Chanukah – חנוכה- refers to the reclaiming and re-sanctifying – the dedication – of the Temple after the Maccabees’ military victory. Interestingly enough, the same root of this word (חנכ) also forms the Hebrew word that us used for education. Chinooch. Education, dedication … training up a student , dedicating oneself to a calling, consecrating a new space. The spirit of this word Chanukah , seems to call upon us to open up closed spaces. Maybe the spaces were open at one time and closed to us because of neglect, violence or various things beyond our control. Perhaps these spaces are physical ones that allow us the security of gathering and community. Or ,they are the mental spaces we inhabit with our emotional or intellectual lives.
Beyond the politics of Maccabees and the materialism of the ‘holiday’ season… is the challenge suggested to us each night of Chanukah as we light each candle. Point that light toward all of our closed spaces … and wonder how we might further open all of them … whether are spaces in our homes, in community, in our minds or in our hearts.