Reprinted with permission from CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning & Leadership. Originally published for Hanukkah 2001.On the nights of Hanukkah, Jews around the country willremember a little pitcher of olive oil. In particular, we will recall amoment from the second century BCE when one of the Temple priests searchedthrough the rubble of the vandalized sacred house.

In the midst of the chaos wrought by the attackers he found a single, miraculously undisturbed,container of oil. Surrounded by the wreckage, in an hour of despair, simplypouring the oil into the tarnished menorah and pausing to re-light it was anact of hope and renewal.

For years to come, people around the world will remember the image of theAmerican flag waving in an enormous pile of twisted metal and debris in theheart of Manhattan. One rescuer, finding the flag in that rubble, broke freefrom the collective sense of anguish to affirm life. Like the first lightsof Hanukkah, the raised flag emerged as a symbol that the attack would notsucceed in defeating the spirit of a resilient and determined people.

These nights of Hanukkah are a perfect time for all Americans to recall theactions of the past months that returned us to an affirmation of life --stories of bravery; phone conversations with friends and family; walks inthe woods or by water; personal reflections read or heard; music; andmoments of silence, meditation and prayer.

We also might recall the public gatherings--the moving benefit concerts,the interfaith vigils, and the meetings and gatherings in our localcommunities which expressed our collective grief and our desire to moveforward.

On Hanukkah, we have eight days to dedicate ourselves to sustaining thisrenewed sense of public engagement and to continue the quiet acts thatmatter: caring for one another with sensitivity, pausing to appreciate ourdaily sustenance, and loving life in a way that will give us strengththrough the times ahead.

An interdenominational team of rabbis and scholars created the following ways in which we can dedicate each night of Hanukkah toan act of heroism. We began with the simple premise that Hanukkah lightsremind us of those who sowed light in dark times. This year, as we reflecton countless acts of courage, determination, and perseverance, we dedicateeach night to a set of heroes.

  • First Night: Fire fighters, police officers, and everyday citizenswho gave their lives to save others.
  • Second Night: Doctors, counselors, volunteers with the Red Cross andothers who were called on to heal, comfort, and support those individualsand families who have suffered unbearable loss.
  • Third Night: Government and community leaders who transcendedideological differences to build national strength and unity.
  • Fourth Night: Parents and teachers who helped children to cope withnew fears with calm and empathy.
  • Fifth Night: Rabbis, priests, ministers, imams and other religiousleaders who used their traditions to bring people together, to affirm ourcommon humanity, and to nurture life.
  • Sixth Night: Men and women who have been called up to nationalservice, who will not be with their families for the holidays this year sothat they may protect us all.
  • Seventh Night: Allies around the world, who have been outspoken intheir condemnation of terror.
  • Eighth Night: All of us who, through our daily actions, haveinsisted that we will vigilantly move on, strengthening America's commitmentto diversity and pluralism, ensuring that the religious and intellectualfreedoms that we have fought for will continue to be a light unto allnations.
  • In one of the classic retellings of the Hanukkah story, we read: "Theyentered the sanctuary, rebuilt the altar, repaired the walls, replaced thesacred vessels, and were engaged in the rebuilding for eight days." May we,as a nation, celebrate this Hanukkah as a time of both spiritual andcommunal rebuilding.