Featured in local papers on Thursday, November 28, 2002. Copyright 2002 by Yosef Y. Polter.

Chanukah - Good Must Prevail

The holiday of Chanukah begins this Friday evening, November 29.  The Chanukah story - one of the earlier struggles for religious freedom - took place about 2200 years ago in Israel.  When the Jews entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after a lengthy absence, due to religious persecution, they found, to their horror, that it had been desecrated and all the sacred oil had been defiled.  After a thorough search, they did find one flask of oil - enough to burn for only one night - that still had the seal of the High Priest.  Now it would take eight days to procure more oil, but the practice of lighting the Menorah was normally carried out every day of the year.  They decided: we have enough oil for tonight, so let's do the service.  Miraculously, that oil burned for eight days until they got more oil. 

We celebrate Chanukah primarily by lighting the Menorah each night.  The first night we light one, the second night we light two, and so on until the eighth night, when we light all eight.  Why don't we just light one candle or eight candles on all eight nights?  What is the significance of adding a candle each night? 

Perhaps there is a very timely message for us here.  In recent times we have seen the face of evil at home and across the globe.  We know that we can defeat evil by doing more good.  However, one may think: in every generation we keep fighting the evil but the victories seem to be short lived, so what's the use?  Why keep trying so hard, when it seems to be futile?  Are we really making progress?

This is where Chanukah sheds some light (no pun intended).  By adding one candle each night to the previous night's, we learn that good - symbolized by light - is cumulative.  The good done by all previous generations is still there waiting to be added to ours, or vice versa.  It is never lost, never erased, and never forgotten.  The same is not true for evil.  Each evil happening stands by itself with no connection to other events.  Each time evil is defeated the power behind that occurrence is gone forever.  However, acts of kindness, ethics, piety, charity, morality, and justice never go away; their power is ever present.

When we understand this continuum - how G‑d keeps piling up acts of goodness - we can see that good, by definition, must prevail.  The cumulative amount of goodness far outweighs each independent, self-standing incident of evil.  We must never stop improving our surroundings and the world, even if at times we may doubt if it counts.

May we use this auspicious time to internalize this encouraging Chanukah lesson, by recognizing that our deeds and efforts of goodness are never lost: they continue to accumulate.  Sometime soon, the cumulative good will triumph once and for all.  May we merit this era speedily in our days.

Rabbi Yosef Polter is the director of Chabad Jewish Center, located at 148 Great Road in Acton, directly across the new Brookside Shops Mall.  A Chanukah celebration will be held on Sunday, December 1.  6:00 PM, community ten-foot menorah lighting followed by latkes, doughnuts, drinks, and more.  All are invited free of charge.  Earlier, at 4:00 PM, children's program with crafts, games, and more.  Price: $7 per child.  For more information, please call (978) 758-8994 or 929-2513.  Also visit  www.chabadofacton.com