Keep the Hanukkah lights glowing

Robert A. Cohn is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Jewish Light. This commentary is adapted from a D’var Torah he gave during a Light board meeting last week. 

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

This is a time of great challenge and great opportunity for our Jewish community in St. Louis, in Europe and around the world.

As a news organization, we have been compelled by events to share some horrific stories about terrorism and violence: stabbings in Jerusalem; 130 killed by terrorists in Paris; 224 passengers killed in an ISIS-claimed bombing over the Sinai; and most recently the mass shootings at a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., that resulted in 14 people killed and 21 wounded. 

And there has been a presidential campaign marred by unprecedented demagoguery, which has served only to create more fear and anxiety to make a bad situation worse.

At the time of these challenges, we must also take note of our many blessings: a thriving St. Louis Jewish community of more than 60,000; 23 synagogues and temples of all streams of Judaism; and a strong Jewish Federation, Jewish Community Center, Jewish Community Relations Council and other groups that enhance Jewish life.

Among them, I believe, is the St. Louis Jewish Light, whose role is contained in its very name.

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In the Almighty’s very first act of creation, God said, “Let there be Light.  And there was Light.  And God saw that it was good.” That God saw that Light was good is highly significant.  In the English language, the word good is most similar to the word God.  Just remove an “o” and good becomes God.

We recently concluded celebrating Hanukkah, which is often called the Festival of Lights because of the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days instead of one in the Temple.  The festival is more properly known as the Festival of Dedication— or Rededication, because it celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple, which had been desecrated by the Syrian-Greek tyrant Antiochus. 

In both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, as well as in every Jewish house of worship in the world, there is a Ner Tamid, an Eternal Light.

Since that very first Hanukkah in 166 BCE, the lights of the Hanukkah menorah, the Hanukkiah, have brightened our spirits in both good times and bad, augmenting the Eternal Light in our sanctuaries of worship.

It was said of Eleanor Roosevelt that “she would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.”

So let us continue the seven-decade tradition of the Jewish Light — not only to print the news, the good and the too-often bad, but to shed the light of wisdom and perspective on the complex issues facing us as Jews, as Americans and as citizens of the world. 

May it be God’s will.