Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life

Rabbi’s Blog


December,  2022

Dear Coalition Community,

Seth Godin, a blogger and author who writes on leadership and fundraising, tells a story about leaf
blowing. And given the season, and the fact that my yard is now covered in thousands of oak and maple
leaves, I thought I would start by sharing it with you:

It’s autumn in North America, and that means that homeowners and contractors are busy
removing suburban leaves; It’s almost impossible to avoid the deafening roar of gas-powered
leaf blowers. These leaf blowers are widely used, even though we know they are bad for hearing
and respiration, are obnoxiously loud, and that better, quieter, and cleaner alternatives are
easily available. In fact, in just one hour a gas-powered leaf blower will emit as much carbon
dioxide as driving a car for the same amount of time. The competitive nature of the landscaping
business pushes people to choose the fastest and cheapest option, even if it is disruptive to the
neighborhood and detrimental to the health of those who use it. One might say that it would be
best to just ban gas leaf blowers., However, sometimes it is easier to do nothing.

This month is the season of Hanukkah – our Festival of Lights. It is a time of bringing more light into the
world at the darkest moment of the year, and rededicating ourselves to the work of creating a more
perfect, more loving, more just, and more equitable society as a reflection of the Divine. And while it
may be easier to do nothing as our parable from Seth Godin tells us, the holiday of Hanukkah comes at
the moment when we most want to curl up under a blanket to remind us that comfort with doing
nothing is not a Jewish value!

And so instead, I want to share with you eight of my favorite quotes that reflect the importance of
Hanukkah. My hope is that you will use them each night during this Hanukkah season, and share them
with the people you love that you are celebrating with. These texts come from a variety of places, and
reflect a variety of different traditions. But each of these quotes speaks to the idea that “nothing” is not
an option:

This is the season when people of all faiths and cultures are pushing back against the planetary
darkness. We string bulbs, ignite bonfires, and light candles. And we sing.

—Anita Diamant

We light candles in testament that faith makes miracles possible. 

—Nachum Braverman

The proper response, as Hanukkah teaches, is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle.

— Yitz Greenberg

Sometimes, a flame can be utterly extinguished. Sometimes, a flame can shrink and waver, but
sometimes a flame refuses to go out. It flares up from the faintest ember to illuminate the
darkness, to burn in spite of overwhelming odds.”

—Karen Hesse, The Stone Lamp: Eight Stories Of Hanukkah Through History

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as
though everything is a miracle.

―Albert Einstein

On Hanukkah, some people ask: Why couldn’t we light all eight candles in one night instead of
having to light a new one for each of eight nights? It is because Hanukkah is not merely a cause
for celebrations; it is a trial of perseverance.”

—Simon Nguyen

A candle is a small thing. But one candle can light another. And see how its own light increases,
as a candle gives its flame to the other. You are such a light.

—Moshe Davis

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts
Don’t let the light go out!
It’s lasted for so many years!
Don’t let the light go out!
Let it shine through our hope and our tears…
—Peter, Paul and Mary, “Light One Candle”

May our holiday season be filled with light and joy and family, and may we be reminded that Hanukkah
comes to teach us that “nothing” is not an option when it comes to leaf-blowers just as much as when it
comes to building a more light-filled world.

Chag Urim Same’ach (May you have a light-filled holiday),

Kol Tuv (Be Well),


Rabbi James