The Menorah of Modern Freedom

A Kavanah for Chanukah 2013/5774, updated 2014/5775

by Rabbi Ellen Lippmann


It starts with one little candle. Even before the first candle is lit, we place the shamash in the menorah, the candle we need to begin the lighting.

It starts with one small act that ignites the spirit: Nachshon steps into the sea and it parts, leading the Israelite slaves to freedom. Matityahu refuses to eat pork. And in Immokalee, Florida, tomato pickers refuse the abuse that once looked normal.

Let’s imagine a new menorah, many-branched: The first candle is for the college students, who were early allies; the next for Jewish-owned Pacific Tomatoes, the first farm to sign; a third for communities of faith, and so on. Each candle is kindled by a shamash, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, who have transformed an industry by their courage and faith.

As we stand to light Chanukah’s lights, we marvel at a modern miracle: farmworkers, whom many assumed to be powerless, have overturned generations of abuse and lit up the night with their courage and faith. May ours burn brighter because of it.