The original Hanukkah dedication was the rededication of the Second Temple, a monument in its time to the Hasmonean dynasty that ruled Israel after driving out Antiochus and the Greeks. That Hanukkah was a nationalist celebration. With the Temple destroyed and the Rabbis leading in exile, Hanukkah became focused on dedication to serving God through Torah.
In the United States, Hanukkah was reshaped into a holiday dedicated to the celebration of religious freedom. As with all Jewish holidays, the meaning we see in Hanukkah continues to evolve. It asks us to what and to whom we dedicate ourselves. Hopefully not to video games or social media or a work promotion. To deepened spirituality? To advancing social causes? To raising and dispersing tzedaka? To building community? To helping the people immediately around us? To furthering science or medicine? To seeking justice and peace in Israel?
There are so many wonderful possible answers to the call for dedication. Many of them can be offered in a single life. What actions call to you today? To what will you dedicate yourself in the year ahead? May our dedication reflect our deepest values and highest selves!
Rabbi David Teutsch is a co-chair of the J Street Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet, Wiener Professor Emeritus of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the author of a three-volume Guide to Jewish Practice.
Eight nights, eight ways to deepen your involvement, awareness and impact
For each night of Hanukkah, we have a recommended activity — a way to learn more about the issues, get more involved in J Street or help drive change. You can do all eight in order, switch them up, or pick and choose what’s most meaningful to you.