In our California Jewish community, we are reeling. First the shooting in Pittsburgh, then the one in Thousand Oaks – at what was considered a neighborhood bar for many of my friend’s children. And then the fires, the evacuations, the loss, the fires, the ongoing challenges. We are all scrambling for a response. And there are many possibilities. There is no perfect response or magic response or “right” response. But we have to do something.

Because one of our goals is to learn from our experiences. And if we don’t attach our insights to something concrete, as impossible as it is to believe right now, our experience and ideas will be forgotten. As our sages teach us in Ethics of Our Fathers, “Someone whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, his wisdom won’t last.”

What are these insights? Where do they come from?

In general when we have a painful experience, something that affects us as individuals and as part of the Jewish community, we want to ask ourselves three important questions:

  1. How can I learn and grow from this experience? How can I ensure that the pain does not go to waste?

  2. How can I deepen my connection to the broader Jewish community, to the rest of the Jewish people? How can I solidify my recognition that we are all in this together?

  3. How can I come closer to the Creator? How can I deepen my faith and trust? How can I feel more connected to the Almighty?

In order to solidify our new realizations and make them last, we must attach them to action. It seems that the approaching holiday of Hanukkah may provide the perfect vehicle through which to craft a response. We can start with the question: How can we counter the darkness and bring light to the world?

My friend, Chana Heller, and I created 8 questions, 8 themes for each night of Chanukah that we can use as springboards to make our experience of the holiday more meaningful and to really be engaged in pushing back the darkness. These questions can be used to promote family discussions with everyone participating or even just for individual introspection.

Hopefully these tools and thoughts will lift us, our families, our LA community and the whole Jewish people.

Night One: Kindness: What kindness can we do today that is a little outside our comfort zone?

Night Two: Jewish Pride: What can we do to deepen our children’s sense of Jewish pride today? Or our own?

Night Three: Food: What holiday-themed food can we make today and how can we use it to bring joy to others, family, friends or even strangers?

Night Four: Prayer: What prayer can we say tonight to express gratitude for the miracles in our lives?

Night Five: Charity: Instead of gift getting, how can we make this an evening of giving?

Night Six: Love: Can we take the first step to turn around a difficult relationship?

Night Seven: Fighting for the Jewish People: What can we do today to be a modern-day Maccabee?

Night Eight: Jewish Unity: What can we do today to create greater closeness with other Jews?

May we all find a way to bring light to our world.