Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Meditating on the Menorah for Chanukah

This Chanukah, I will be spending the first few days of the festival at a silent meditation retreat.  The retreat is being held at The Garrison Institute and will be led by Sylvia Boorstein and Sharon Salzberg.  It isn't specifically a retreat on the themes of Chanukah.  Rather, the focus will be on some of the central themes of meditation practice - cultivating compassion, generosity and integrity.  But for me, personally, there is a connection to the spiritual message of Chanukah.

The story of the little jar of oil that miraculously lasted for eight days instead of one is the eternal story of keeping the flame of hope alive, even in dark times.  Rabbi Akiva taught that, once the lights of the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem could no longer be kept alight at all times, following the destruction of the 2nd temple in 70 CE, we now had to understand the commandment to keep the fires burning at all times as a metaphor for the fires of the spirit and faith within.

In Jewish tradition, we are blessed with the practice of Shabbat - a weekly opportunity to replenish our little jar of oil that can help to sustain us.  Our lives can become so busy and stressed that we fail to allow the space to just breathe and notice where we are.  To take one day, or even one hour, to simply be and reflect can help us refocus on where we are, who we are, and where we want to be in our lives.  Meditation practice is one way to create a vessel to help us to do this on a regular basis in our own lives.  Taking an extended period of time in a meditation retreat can help deepen the practice and expose us to the possibilities that the practice can reveal to us.

Many cannot afford the luxury of a 4 day retreat - this is my first in over 6 years.  For me, it is a time of re-dedication to my own spiritual practice.  Chanukah means dedication, originally referring to the re-dedication of the Temple after the Maccabees regained control of Jerusalem from the Syrian-Greeks.  For me, it is a way to keep the fires burning at all times, ensuring that they do not go out.

Below is an opportunity to bring just a little meditation into your celebrations of Chanukah this year - just 15 minutes from Rabbi Miriam Klotz, from a podcast from the Institute of Jewish Spirituality.  You can find more podcasts and meditations at their website here.

Happy Chanukah - may your light within never go out, and may you be like the shamash - the one who lights the flames within others by the things that you do and the way that you walk in the world.
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

Rabbi Myriam Klotz - Chanukah Meditation .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

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