Rededicate Your Home on Chanukah
Polly said, “It’s early this year,” and Helen agreed. Edith confessed that she just wasn’t ready, while George complained that his retirement community prohibited the use of lighted candles, “So how am I gonna make Chanukah this year?” Joyce said it all with a sigh and an “Oi!”
Regardless whether you consider it a blessing that Chanukah comes early in December – “I like it early” says Karen, “because it doesn’t compete with Christmas, “- or later in the month as Sam prefers when he says, “When Chanukah comes later then my grandkids are off from school and we can celebrate together,” – there are creative ways to celebrate Chanukah and one of the most interesting is to inaugurate a “Chanukah HaBayit” or a rededication of your home.
The ceremony has historical roots. After the Maccabees’ victory against the army of King Antiochus, the Jews reclaimed the Temple by performing a ceremony to restore it as a sacred and holy place.
The ceremony was called “Chanukat HaBayit,” which is a Hebrew phrase that meant “rededicating the house.” Our sages tell us that our ancestors kindled the “chanukiyah” the special oil lamp and in the glow of the menorah light, we Jews reclaimed our home.
Today Chanukah can be a special time to remember that our homes are our sanctuaries and that each of the eight nights of Chanukah can offer our families an opportunity to rededicate our homes to our Jewish traditions. Each night, as we kindle our candles, or twist a bulb on our electric chanukiyah, we can renew the light of the spirit within each room.
Thanks to CLAL’s National Jewish Resource Center, a new ritual of rededication can add depth and meaning to the Chanukah experience.
On each of the eight nights, begin with a meditation:
My home is the place where I celebrate life, mark the seasons, welcome guests, light candles, remember the past, dream about the future, and open my heart to the present. At Chanukah, may I rededicate my home to the values and relationships I hold sacred.
Make this special blessing each night before kindling the candles:
As this menorah fills with light, may our home be rededicated to the Source of Blessing that connects us all.
Eight Ways to Dedicate Your Home:
The First Candle: Invite guests, cook a special meal together, plan a family event or make time for those you love, creating and expanding shalom bayit, relationships of peace.
The Second Candle: Revitalize your home as a center for Jewish learning. Add a new book to your Jewish book shelf.
The Third Candle: Invite a friend and together read a chapter from your new Jewish book. Share your thoughts and opinions. “Talk among yourselves!”
The Fourth Candle: Choose a place in your home where you can devote yourself to prayer, meditation or reflection. CLAL suggests making a mizrach, a marker pointing eastward, and placing it on your own eastern wall to focus your attention toward Jerusalem.
The Fifth Candle: In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel, use your mizrach to turn your thoughts and recollections to the beauty and strength of our ancestral homeland. Invite a friend to share photos and memories of a visit to Israel.
The Sixth Candle: As the Chanukah lights burn, gather a coat, a sweater or blanket to donate to a homeless shelter, or collect canned or packaged food to donate to a food drive.
The Seventh Candle: In anticipation of the seventh night have your grandchildren create handmade tzedakah boxes and with your little ones, place them in each room of your home so they will be available for collecting loose change.
The Eighth Candle: Gather family and friends and formally rededicate the rooms of your home so they can better accomplish their sacred tasks–the dining room for guests, the kitchen for sustaining life, the living room for family interaction, the bedroom for rest and intimacy. Obtain additional mezuzot and with your friends and family affix these on each entry way. If you have young grandchildren, affix two mezzuot, one placed down low for little ones to touch.
Like Polly said, Chanukah does come early this year with the first candle kindled on the night of December 2. If you are fortunate enough to live near your family, you can plan your Chanukah HaBayit festivities by inviting children and grandchildren to your home. If you live in a retirement community you can share these activities with your friends by selecting one apartment for each of the eight nights. And remember, no worries if you are not permitted to use candles and matches. An electric menorah will do nicely!