The Hanukkah menorah holds nine candles. Il primo, called the shamash, is used to light the other eight. This Hanukkah, I am ascribing to each one a meaning, all of equal importance.
The shamash, the helper candle, will represent me — my power to become better in the new year; and through my own moral growth, my ability to spread light in the moral darkness that surrounds us.
The first of the other eight candles, I will kindle for the tireless advocates of justice and fairness, whatever their partisan affiliation, who see their efforts frustrated by elected officials prioritizing their own wellbeing over the country’s.
Il secondo, I will light for Black Americans, who may be wondering whether the American judicial system will ever truly care equally about them.
The third, I will light for women, still enduring a power differential in most every area of their lives that results in bias of every form, from sexual harassment to workplace discrimination.
The fourth, I light for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, who also witness progress moving all-too-slowly, and in many communities remain targets of fearmongering and whisper campaigns.
Il quinto, will be for immigrants around the world, who are regarded with suspicion and detained at borders, leaving them homeless and stateless and stripped of dignity.
The sixth, I light for the aged, whose contributions to society are too often ignored because they are “old” and believed unable to comprehend or embrace the direction the world is headed; and for the disabled, whose inward gifts may be masked by their outward challenges, and whose needs go unheard and rights neglected.
The seventh, I light for the planet Earth, helpless victim of humanity’s greed, shortsightedness, willful disregard, and deliberate destruction.
And the eighth, I light for our children, who will have to live with the damage the generations before them have wrought, unless we repair it.
Each of us will identify our own lights — on our menorahs, in our windows, or on our trees. But however we celebrate, the act of kindling light can be, if we wish it, an act of illuminating the sparks burning in every human being and all created things. When we learn to look at the world and at others — no matter their color, their ethnicity, their gender, their age, their ability, their faith, la loro educazione, their wealth, or their politics — and recognize those sparks; and when we accept our responsibility to make them glow again; then we will have taken a first step toward kindling the light and restoring the hope that will heal our dark and fractured world.