Chanukah + Re-dedication

Jewish educators operate in a time that’s slightly different from everyone else’s. We have the combination of the Jewish calendar, the academic calendar(s) of our students, and the Gregorian calendar guiding our time. Sometimes this leads to confusion/tension when it comes to how to balance the competing priorities of calendars that don’t exactly operate in tandem with one another. We’ve all been there - figuring out how to address Jewish holidays that don’t align with the public school calendar, explaining [again] why we’re celebrating the new year in the Fall, and complaining about the lunar calendar’s tendency to not line up how we want it to, with holidays always seeming early or late compared to where they ‘should’ be. (Side note, if that last piece resonates you, check out this amazing website - Is Yontef Early This Year?)

But putting aside the issues that it may bring, operating in a multi-calendar world also means that almost every month brings a new opportunity to reflect and recommit ourselves. And Chanukah falls right into that. Chanukah is [among many other things] about the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration. I love this notion - there was a foundation that already existed, that, due to a variety of circumstances, had serious cracks, and had essentially been blown off course. While this is an oversimplification, the core principle of the matter is that the space, and everything it represented, had been harmed, and needed to be made sacred again. And for many of us, we’re at the time of the year where the same thing may be true. The pristine agendas and symmetrical desks are buried under crossed out notes and forgotten papers. The intentions that we set in September, when the school and Jewish years were brand new, may have fallen by the wayside as the immediate needs of each day take precedence. I get it. I’ve been there. Honestly, I’m there right now.

So let’s talk re-dedication. And light.

Chanukah is when we bring added light into the physical darkness of the season, and this year more than ever, it feels like into the metaphorical darkness of the world. Each of us needs to figure out what the light that we can bring to others is, and to (re) dedicate ourselves to spreading that light, however we can. Here’s what I’m doing:

  • In the month of Kislev, I committed to writing personal, hand-written notes to individuals who positively impact my life in some way, to send a little light back towards them.

  • I’m looking back at the goals I set for myself over Rosh Hashana, and figuring out what I can do to advance them in this new season.

  • I’m finding tangible ways to be of service and value-add to others. Whether it’s hosting Shabbat dinners, doing 1:1 coffee dates with colleagues, or taking on new mentees, I’m making sure that my relationships are thoughtful and light-bringing, both to myself and others. It goes both ways - I’m also dedicating myself to not fostering some more toxic relationships, and prioritizing who I spend my time with.

As educators and as human beings in general, this season is a time to think about what our priorities are, and to re-dedicate ourselves to the things that align with the values + intentions that we have for ourselves. What are you dedicating yourself to this Chanukah? How are you shining the light?

Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath