It is odd that we would choose to devote a whole festival to the rededication of the Temple. The Tabernacle and then the first and second Temples were each constructed and dedicated with great pomp and circumstance, but the anniversaries of their construction are hardly recalled. Why put so much focus on the reconsecration of the Temple under the Maccabees?
Taking something old and making it whole again won’t often generate the same buzz and glamour of building something new and glamorous, which is ironic, because rebuilding and rededicating are often even harder and more sacred work than building anew. The fact that the Maccabees were able to take a place that was wrecked and desanctified and make it new and holy again was an even greater accomplishment.
Judaism is a faith of renewal, rather than starting from scratch. We do not discard our traditions, prayers and teachings, but we also do not let them molder and decay. We refresh them with new light. As we approach Hanukkah, each of us may have parts of us, relationships and hopes, that are run down, that are lacking the spark of holiness they once held. Hanukkah tells us not to give up as long as even a negligible drop of fuel remains. We cannot give up on ourselves, on our relationships, on the people around us, on our values, because the faintest flames, when rekindled, are the ones that emit the greatest light!
Joshua Heller is the senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Torah.