Chanukah and the Environment

Jewish family celebrating HanukkahIn the darkest days of December, the Jewish community will be celebrating our annual holiday of Chanukah.  This ancient ritual dates back close to 2,500 years ago when the Greek-Syrians took over the holy land of Israel from the Jewish people. They set laws over the Jewish people restricting them from praying to God, celebrating Jewish holidays, performing Jewish customs or even studying our holy texts.

In response the Jewish people revolted, led by Judah Maccabee, and defeated the mightier Greek army.  When they recovered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, they saw their holy candelabra lights had been extinguished and not enough oil to relight the lights. However a great miracle happened, the lights were relit and lasted a full eight days longer than they should have, until more oil could be produced and brought in. Today we therefore light candles for eight nights, starting with one the first night and adding one each night, to add light and holiness to our lives.

As we think about light and thanking God for miracles of the past, we can take these lessons forward to today’s celebration of this holiday, and the other holidays of this December season.

  1.  Light – the candle lights of Chanukah are wonderful for the environment. While we can’t use candlelight for everything, we can take a look at how we consume light and electricity in our homes. Remember to turn off lights when not using them. Replace all your light bulbs with either CFL or LED bulbs that use a fraction of the electricity and last for years longer than traditional bulbs.
  2. Waste – as this is the time of gift giving in the Jewish community, one for each night, might we consider how we wrap the gifts to avoid waste, and save the parts like ribbons and gift bags for future use. Perhaps using a website like which is way to give gifts without waste and sends half of the money to a worthy charity of your choice.
  3. Miracles – at this season of remembering miracles, let’s take a moment to recognize the value of all the earth provides for us. We have the luxury of turning on electricity when we need it, we have food at an easy reach wherever we go and plenty of water. The earth itself is a miracle from God that we must cherish, respect and keep in good shape for future generations.

About this guest blogger:

Guest blogger, Rabbi Stephen Wise

Guest blogger, Rabbi Stephen Wise

Rabbi Stephen Wise has been the spiritual leader of Shaarei-Beth El Congregation (SBE) of Oakville for seven years. Prior to moving here, Rabbi Wise served pulpits in Boca Raton, FL, New York, NY and Boston, MA. He is currently the chair of the Interfaith Council of Halton and serves on the Multi-Faith Support Team for the Halton Regional Police. He is the author of the recently published book Israel: Repairing the World on how Israel is leading the way in green technology and environmental awareness. SBE will be engaging in an audit of our building under the auspices of Greening Sacred Spaces Halton.

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