Dec.10 marks the end of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights.

Hanukkah is centered on a story set in the second century BCE, during a siege of the Second Jewish Temple by the Syrians. It is said that a single night’s worth of lamp oil in the temple lasted instead for a miraculous eight nights, enabling the Maccabees, a group of Jewish warriors, to fend off the attack.

Though Hanukkah traditionally is regarded as a minor religious holiday, it still means something; perhaps now more than it ever did.

If there’s one thing we all could use more of right now, it’s light.

I wish I were as adroit as some other columnists, able to turn out a piece quickly when some national tragedy occurs. But the mass murders at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 left me wordless.

But none of us can remain so. The perpetrator’s hope that the community would be cowed failed, as it always does.

Even in the throes of unimaginable grief, even as they passed through the valley of the shadow of death, even amid the bewilderment, anger and, yes, fear that follows such heinous acts, it failed. Miserably.
Watch for it

It failed for the same reasons twisted ideology always fails. The outpouring of support for Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life community continues to reverberate with one message: Darkness might prevail at the moment, but hold out for the light.

As Hanukkah illustrates, and as countless courageous men and women throughout our history constantly remind us, no matter how dark the circumstances, light inevitably finds a way in.

Just like the Maccabees, it is our job not only to foster that light, but also to defend it, even as we actively repel those forces that deem such hope as foolishness.

The very nature of light is such that it infuses us with hope and life. This time of year, when natural light is in short supply, a day in which the sun breaks through reminds us why we gravitate toward it.

Even nature itself stretches toward the light.

We are more reticent in darkness. It can distort what we know to be true in the light of day. We therefore must constantly remind ourselves darkness can take root only, can engender fear only, when light recedes.
False light

People who revel in hatred thrive in darkness; they need it. It’s why so much of the nation was stunned at the caravan of neo-Nazis that showed up in Charlottesville, Va., last summer. At how normal so many seemed, clad in khaki slacks and polo shirts.

Those who brandished torches through the dark streets of Charlottesville forget that, because of its source, their light is false and temporary. It does not dispel the kind of darkness that soils the soul and warps the mind, but rather, exposes it.

In the years to come, no one will remember the names of those who killed Heather Heyer, Nia Wilson, Maurice Stallard, Vickie Jones, the Charleston Nine, the 11 martyred in Pittsburgh, and so many others guilty of nothing, yet were an affront to those curdled with hatred.

Let us hope the world will, however, remember the calls for justice and the acts of bravery, compassion and mercy shone by Americans who refused to let the country they love be consumed by shadows and dragged, backward, into the dark. 

Reach Charita M. Goshay at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.