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The Avodah Blog

8 Ways to Grow Your Light This Hanukkah

Hanukkah takes place during the darkest time of the year. The days are short, nights are long, and the cold is setting in. Lately, the world feels pretty dark, too. In these difficult times, Hanukkah offers us the chance to bring light into our homes and hearts, not just with one flame, but with each candle spreading more and more light each night. To help grow your light this Hanukkah, here are eight practices you can adopt to help sustain your light within and ignite the flames of justice this year:
 

 

Build a Community

As the saying goes, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” No one can change the world alone. To work for social and economic justice, we have to work together in order to make lasting change. In Avodah’s 20 years of service, we’ve worked with nearly 200 anti-poverty organizations across the United States and many more partners including Hillels, advocacy organizations, synagogues, and Jewish community leaders. As you light the first Hanukkah candle this night, think about these questions: Who is on the issues I care about? How can I form a deeper connection with them? How can I form relationships with those this work might impact? Answering and acting on these questions can help grow this single, flickering flame into many great and bright lights all year.
 

 

Serve Others

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” You don’t need to solve world peace, be an Olympian, have a PhD, or invent a cure for disease to do something great in this world. Everyone can play a role in bringing a bit more light into the world by doing small acts of good. Every single one of us has the power to impact the life of another. Whether through volunteering, philanthropy, or advocacy, we can all play a small role in making the world a better place. Better yet, serving others benefits the person serving too, sometimes even more. From adding a sense of purpose to our lives, to lowering blood pressure and decreasing mortality rates , science has shown that generosity and kindness benefits us all. When lighting the second candle of Hanukkah, think about what small acts of good you can do this year to bring a bit more light into this world.
 

 

Live Your Values

In our Jewish history, we know how important it is to stand up for vulnerable and targeted populations. The Torah teaches us, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue.” Our Jewish values teach us that we must walk the walk, not just talk the talk. In the Jewish social justice world, we often call this action, ‘praying with our feet.’ That’s taking meaningful action to stand against hatred, bigotry, and speaking out for those whose voices are silenced. This year, we’ve taken action to stop a Muslim ban , stand up for immigrants , serve those most in need, and ignite young changemakers to make a difference and ensure tzedek for all. As you light the third Hanukkah candle tonight, consider what you can do to more fully live out your Jewish values.
 

 

 Be Proximate

“There is power in proximity,” scholar and activist Bryan Stevenson says. In order to be true agents of change, we have to be close to the issues. When we fight poverty, we don’t do it from a distance. Our participants are working in homeless shelters and food banks , leading student afterschool programs , helping to administer healthcare , and marching with activists on the front lines. Being close to these issues helps us to understand the root causes of poverty and allows us to form the solutions that will bring it to an end.
 

 

 Stay Curious

We’re living in a time of extreme polarization, but listening to one another can help to create real change. Sometimes our instinct is to shut down when we hear hard things, but deep practices of listening and reflecting back can be more constructive. When we’re willing to have those difficult conversations and cross our divides, we often find that we have more similarities than differences and our stand for justice is stronger.
 

 

Have Hope

As we say on Hanukkah, “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – A great miracle happened there.” Despite all odds – fewer soldiers, little resources, and just enough oil for one night, our ancestors defeated a tyrant and miraculously kept the consecrated oil burning for eight nights, in time to rededicate the desecrated Temple. They couldn’t have done any of it without hope – without the belief that they could somehow beat the obstacles against them. Faced with today’s challenges, we too must hold hope in our hearts that power can be challenged and those who are oppressed can rise above. The Hanukkah story teaches us that miracles are possible – it is us who help ignite them.
 

 

 Be Joyful

Joy gives us energy. It helps us to be better, faster, stronger from the inside out. Happiness keeps us going, it fills our soul and gives us power to move forward. Take time to sing, dance, celebrate. From that energy, we build power. As you light the seventh candle, think about what brings you joy. How can you add more of it in your life?
 

 

Rest

The importance of rest is built into the very framework of Judaism with each Shabbat. Taking a step back, giving ourselves a break, and reflecting on our work is how we rejuvenate our hearts, minds, and bodies. Our Rabbi-in-Residence, Danya Ruttenberg , was recently asked what we should do when our engines are running out of steam. She answered, “Rest your precious self. Do a few things that refill the well—not that numb you out, but that bring you joy, make you feel alive or reconnected with yourself. Spend time with people who really see you and love you for who you are. You’ll be back in it soon enough.”

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