Now that my kids are grown, with two in college, and one graduated and off on his own life adventure, I am acutely aware that Chanukah is no longer about the children. “Do you have a chanukiyah (Chanukah menorah)?” I asked each of them over Thanksgiving, and they assured me they were fine. I have done what I could to impart the joy and warmth of the festival of lights, and I hope I have conveyed the values of this festival in a way that brings meaning to their lives.

So tonight as my husband and I lit the beautiful chanukiyah that we gave ourselves in honor of our first wedding anniversary those years ago, I was reflecting on the enduring messages of this festival.

My thoughts were spurred on by a rather curious Op-Ed in the New York Times today that questioned the import and power of this festival. “No,” I wanted to shout, as I read the paper this morning, “You’re wrong. Chanukah carries some of THE most important messages for Jews today.”

Yes, I know that Chanukah is a minor festival on the Jewish calendar, not nearly like the “heavy hitters” of the three Pilgrimage Festivals that are Biblically ordained: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. I’ve taught this a thousand times to Religious School students. But we are living in an environment of American secular society wherein our generation is seeking and pursuing ideas that fill our Jewish identities with purpose and our lives with meaning. At this moment, the theme of “dedication” (the meaning of the word Chanukah) is more than relevant – it is an essential idea for Jewish identity today.

So I thought I would consider the meaning of “dedication/Chanukah” for our lives today as an eight day meditation as we light the candles. Many others have done this as well, but since I believe that each of us must rededicate ourselves to our purpose, I am not going to reference other sources as I prepare my reflections. Each night of Chanukah I will share the thoughts that come to me as we light the candles. I hope you have the opportunity to do the same.

Tonight, this first night of Chanukah 5771/2010, I pray that Chanukah is a dedication to:

To speaking with those with whom we disagree with respect and honor, by listening with compassion and interest, and disagreeing with kindness. May Civility characterize our public discourse, healing our nation and our world. And may we, the Jewish people, nurture our bond of mutuality, united through respect and love.

We dedicate ourselves to the best that our Jewish tradition has to offer for our own benefit and for the repair of the world.

Hag Urim Sameah, May the Festival of Lights bring joyous light to you!