Quotations on Hanukah

For inspiration at the time of candle lighting – or anytime, Rabbi Debra has collected quotations on Hanukah themes to spark reflection and discussion.


A man is free only when he has an errand to do on earth.
–Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:
I see heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
–Emily Bronte


I close my eyes and think of Grandma tasting a bit of her childhood each Chanukah when she prepared latkes as her mother had made them before her. My mother, my aunts, my own grandmothers float back to me, young and vibrant once more, making days holy in the sanctuaries of their kitchens, feeding me, cradling me, connecting me to the intricately plaited braid of their past, and even at this moment, looking down the corridor of what’s to come, I see myself join them as they open their arms wide to enfold my children and grandchildren in their embrace.
–Faye Moskowitz

To say yes, over and over, to our integrity, we need to know where we have been: we need our history.
– Adrienne Rich

A leader who doesn’t hesitate before he sends his nation into battle is not fit to be a leader.
– Golda Meir


During the eight days of Hanukah, the same spiritual lights that were created by the miracle are once again available to every Jewish soul. However, in order to experience and to feel this unique light, we need to detach ourselves from the natural order of things and thereby ready ourselves to receive that which emanates from above the natural order.
– Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (the Sfat Emet)

What is [the reason for] Hanukkah? Our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev [commence] the days of Hanukkah, which are eight, on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient for one day's lighting only. Yet a miracle was wrought and they lit [the lamp] with it for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel [psalms of praise] and thanksgiving.
– Talmud Shabbat 21b

God said, “I will promote you, that you may give light to Me, as I have given light to you.”
– Shmot Rabbah 36:2

A light [Hebrew: ner] for one is a light for one hundred.
– Talmud Shabbat 122a

In the struggle with evil, only faith matters.
– Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov

...No matter how impressive a miracle might be, it does not solve the problem of faith for more than a day or two, anymore than the finest meal solves the problem of being hungry for very long…A few small experiences of the meaningfulness of every day will do more for the soul than a single overwhelming experience.
– Rabbi Harold Kushner

The challenge for Jews through the ages has been how to live in two civilizations: the civilization of Judaism and the civilization of our host or majority culture. The Hasmoneans understood that it is not all or nothing. Their grandchildren’s names reveal it: Hyrcanus, for example, is a Greek name. Perhaps, then, one more miracle of Hanukah is that Jews throughout the ages have intuitively managed to weave into the culture of Judaism certain ways of the world without losing our identity or our purpose or our Covenant with God.
–Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin

Elijah’s great work was not that he performed miracles, but that, when fire fell from heaven, the people did not speak of miracles, but all cried, “Adonai is God!”
– Baruch Rabbi Baruch Of Mezbizh