Chanukah is a holiday of contrasts.
A small cruse of oil. The giant miracle.
A tiny Maccabean army. The mighty Hellenistic forces.
The flickering lights illuminating the darkness.
Day-to-day living is often a journey of differences—differences that distinguish and separate rather than connect and unify.
We notice another season, rather than the cycle of nature. We talk about the boundaries of states, rather than the history of civilization. We observe the distinction of a head covering, rather than the beauty of a fabric.
I want to create a culture of seeing the similarities between people—starting with Isaac and Ishmael, Jew and Muslim—because when we see what we have in common, it's easier to talk about the things we don't have in common.
The watchwords of our faith declare שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One." Muslims affirm their faith with لا إله إلا الله there is "no God except Allah."
Even when we think we're different, we're not. As you settle around the chanukiah tonight, try to imagine a world with fewer differences.
Darkness and light are not all that distinct. They are interdependent. One does not exist without the other. When you put them side-by-side, light and darkness don’t fight to maintain their other-ness. Their distinctions vanish when they come together.
This season, I pray for imagination that blurs the lines of our differences. May we recognize that candles reach their full potential when brought into the night and that darkness is transformed in the face of light.
May we come to see the holiday shadows that dance on our tabletops and living room walls for the next eight nights as yearlong reminders of our marvelous interdependence.
I wish you a happy and interconnected holiday. Chag Sameach.