For many, the message of Hanukkah is more special this year than ever

Hanukkah is officially under way. And while for many the holiday will be different because of the pandemic, this year the message of Hanukkah is more significant than ever.

“The holiday is about illuminating the darkness,” says Rabbi Shmuly Levitin of Chabad Downtown Seattle. "The message of Hanukah is of hope.”

This year, Rabbi Levitin says the meaning of the holiday rings truer than ever.

“During this pandemic there are times it feels very dark, people are going through tremendous challenge in many facets of their lives, the answer to that is to increase the light.”

Rabbi Levitin reminds us that the origin of Hanukah is about persevering through immense hardship, something Dr. David Gendelberg, a spinal surgeon, knows all about.

“I think the most challenging part is really trying to deliver care to the people who need it,” says Dr. Gendelberg.

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It’s no surprise the pandemic has been the most difficult part of his career. He’s seen a lot of pain and anxiety. So during an already very tough year, spending Hanukah apart from loved ones is hard.

“It’s just a lot of fun. It's very community-oriented event and now most of us will either light the candles with each other via zoom or just alone at your own home. That’s very different because it's a very social holiday.”

He says it’s disappointing to not be able to light his menorah with family and to not have Hanukkah parties, but he knows it’s the right thing to do. And going back to the history of the holiday, he recognizes the significance of hard times.

“It really forces one to reflect and sometimes you appreciate what you have only once you don't have it, and an example I like to give it is without darkness you wouldn't appreciate light, and so i don't want there to be any darkness but every once in a while it can truly be humbling and make you see what’s really important in life.”

So tonight, as he lights his menorah alone,creating light in darkness, he thinks about this: “Next Hanukah hopefully I’ll be able to celebrate with my loved ones. I will definitely appreciate being able to do so.”