8 Exciting Ways to
Increase Freedom This Hanukah:
a reading & activity for each night of the holiday
1. Chocolate Gelt & Freedom. Approximately 70% of cacao beans around the world are picked by slaves. If you are not eating fair trade chocolate, then you are probably eating slave trade chocolate. Click here to order fair-trade gelt, wholesale or retail, and make the Festival of Freedom even more free.
Do a taste test of different brands and types of fair trade chocolate. Have a contest to see who can pretend to be the most expert (and/or the most obnoxious) chocolate connoisseur, naming the “bouquet,” “under-tones,” “hints of a latke aftertaste,” the “pebble-like texture,” and the like.
Alternatively, use the gelt that you buy as currency for a game of dreidl and then eat your winnings.
2. Clothing & Freedom. Clothing is a frequent gift during Hanukah. Since all Jews use electronics during Hanukah weekdays, you can take a few minutes to pull out tablets, lap tops or even phones and at this link calculate everyone’s “slavery footprint.” The survey is fun to take – and enlightening.
In addition, you can read this short article for an amazing idea of how to teach children and adults about the moral choices that go into buying and wearing clothes. Do you have any ideas to add?
3. Dreidls & Freedom. The game of dreidl is a Hanukah classic. Some say it began because Jews would keep a spinning top nearby when they were studying Torah or planning battles in the days of the Maccabees. If Antiochus’ soldiers arrived, they could pretend to be doing nothing more than playing a game. Jews were punished with death for practicing their faith, but many were willing to risk death for the cause of religious freedom.
The game of dreidl as we know it probably originated after the time of the Maccabees. It is a game of chance because the top lands on the different letters randomly. The message is: to us, so much of life appears random. Imagine if you had been born a Jew under the rule of Antiochus – or Haman – or Brezhnev. Imagine if you were faced with a choice between feeding none of your children but keeping them all or selling one and then feeding the rest. It is an accident of birth that we have so much freedom and so many good choices.
The message of the dreidl is balanced by that of the Hanukah story. God is in control, even if we aren’t. If you are living in dark and shadow, don’t give up on the light.
4. “The Few Against the Many” & Freedom. Traffickers make approximately $150 billion annually from trafficking. We spend about $150 million to end slavery each year. To win against traffickers, we will need, like the Maccabees, to outwit an enemy with greater resources. Then the few dollars and activists can prevail against the many dollars and abusers.
After you light candles, invite each person present (or, if lighting solo, write in a journal) to tell a story about a time when you were one of a few people who prevailed against a larger enemy or mighty obstacle.
5. Toys & Freedom. About 26% of slaves working in the world today are children. These include child soldiers, domestic servants, young girls forced into marriage, boys and girls working on fishing boats, factories, farms, and dozens of other locations – including on the streets as prostitutes and beggars. The U.N.’s Declaration of Rights for children includes the right to play. Child slaves and many other children living in poverty are deprived of that right, among others. When children – or adults – enjoy new toys during this holiday season, is a good time to express gratitude for the bounty that we enjoy and to think of those who are less fortunate.
Take a vote on how you will a) exercise the “right to play” at tonight’s Hanukah gathering and b) help others to exercise their “right to play.” Gather three to five games and vote on which one to play. Then play it. Gather information on three to five charities that help slaves, such as Free the Slaves, Breaking the Chain Through Education, or Polaris, etc. Then donate.
To learn about the supply chain of toys and other items you buy, visit www.knowthechain.org.
6. Time & Freedom. Shabbat is called “a memorial to the Exodus from Egypt” because Shabbat is a holiday of freedom. Only a free person can celebrate a day of rest. Only a free person can control his or her own schedule. Deuteronomy 5:13 teaches that everyone who works deserves a Shabbos, “that he may rest, just like you.”
Our ancestors were slaves in Egypt – and also in labor and concentration camps and, in some cases, in sweat shops. They were not allowed to rest. “You know the soul of the stranger, for you were strangers…” (Exodus 23:5.)
To celebrate the luxury of managing your own time, enjoy "The Five Minutes-es," a practice introduced to me by Rabbi Zalman Schacther-Shalomi: Each member of the family gets five minutes to be a benevolent dictator/Maccabean King or Queen. What do you want to do as a group (as long as it’s not destructive or dangerous)? Play Simon Says, put on some music and dance, go outside and play soccer in the dark. Anything goes. Parents get a turn, too.
7. Political Authority & Freedom. Hanukah commemorates the bravery of a small group of people who stood up against unjust political authority. The example of the Maccabees is an example that we need to follow – still and always. You can advocate for equality and justice in your own country and around the world. Visit the advocacy pages for the United Nations and the advocacy pages for Free the Slaves.
8. Imagination & Freedom. The Lecha Dodi prayer says “sof ma’aseh bemachshavah techillah – the end of the deed has its beginnings in thought.” No material thing comes into being without first coming into thought. If we are going to end slavery, we will need to imagine an entirely free world. Seeing light in dark times, literally and figuratively, is what Hanukah is all about.
Tonight, play this short interview audio piece and discuss the image and goal it offers. Log onto this web page and click on “Look Inside” for a sneak-peek into ending slavery in our generation.
As you watch the candles burn, take a few moments of quiet to imagine a perfected, fully healed world. Then share one detail, especially delightful to you, that would let you know the world of tikun olam (repairing the world) had been completed. Once everyone has shared their ideas, break out the jelly donuts!