Chanukah lesson: We are all like candles
The Chanukah menorah on the steps of City Hall in Pittsburgh may inspire many in the Jewish community and non-Jews as well (“What makes Chanukah great in America,” Dec. 11). Religion in the public square is a very complex legal issue that sent the Pittsburgh case ultimately to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the menorah does not cross the line between church and state.
Interestingly, many Jewish scholars believe that the holiday is primarily a private experience celebrated at home and with close associates such as family and friends. The Talmud does stress the public display of the menorah as an essential part of the performance. However, there are many private performances around the holiday as well, I believe, where family and community are at the heart of much of Jewish observance. And this message seems to be lost on all the promotional aspects of the race to fill the public square with meaning.
Halachah, Jewish law, reminds us that the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is Ner Ish Ubeyto: every person with a menorah in the home. The lesson of religious performance is that we are all like candles of souls brightening the world with light and illumination.
Michael M. Milch