Chanukah – 5771 – 8 days of practice

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Make for me a holy place that I might dwell within you,
that I might dwell among you.
 
shemot 25:8

Chanukah — A time to for us to remember ourselves as the Mishkan, the dwelling place of the Divine Presence. To remember that all of us are sacred vessels, formed and shaped as we are so our unique light can shine through into the world.

Over the course of the year our vessels become clogged, cracked, torn, and on Chanukah we dedicate ourselves to purifying, cleansing these vessels. The cleansing is not about searching for perfection.  It is about peering into the darkness and seeing what is. Lighting small lights that help us see our vulnerabilities, our fears, our strengths, our joys, our love, our beauty and our pain. Letting the light illuminate whatever is present with gentleness and compassion. The noticing of whatever is the work of purification. We remind ourselves our vessels are whole in their brokenness. And it is the cracks that allow the light to shine through.

We dedicate ourselves to this holy work not just for ourselves but for the sake of the world. We purify our vessels so we are better able to make our lives our offerings— so the work of our hands and the expressions of our hearts can bring forth blessing, healing and love.
Each night and day of Chanukah can offer its own practice. Ideally these practices are done as we sit with the lit candles.

Day 1.  Opening to the mystery. Beyond anything I can know or understand is the mystery of all being. At the heart of all is oneness. 
Sit in silence with the first light. Close your eyes and breath into the light, feel it within your body, reach it with your breath. As the mind wanders we bring our attention gently back to the sensation of light in our body. Nourished by each breath this light fills us and the world.
 
Day 2. Spirit coming into form. The One entering into the many.
Creation. Distinction. Relationship. 
Creating the spaciousness inside ourselves to hold contradiction and paradox with compassion. Sit and aligned with the breath offer the prayer: “I take refuge in the unfolding.”
 
Day 3. The (gesher) bridge that reaches across differences. The way to connection and relationship is  gemilut hasadim, acts of loving kindness. Blessing practice: Sit with the candles and pray for peace, love well being for yourself and 9 other people creating a minyan of blessing.

Day 4. The door of possibilities: Standing on the threshold—looking out, noticing the possibilities, noticing what is opening. Listening for the calls that beckon us forward. Sit with the image of an open door.  Notice what arises on the threshold. Notice the emotions, the thoughts, the images that pass through. Be with the open door.
 
Day 5. The breath, taking in and letting go. Constant change.
Being awake to the moment. Being awake to the movement. Opening to all that passes through, to all that changes from moment to moment.
Sit with the lights and notice your breath. Be present to the movement with each breath, the movement from moment to moment. Let the attention rest gently on each breath, notice the receiving and letting go. The 5th light calls us forward with discernment and patience. Take a breath and consider, what are wise and compassionate choices that I can make?  
 
Day 6. Rosh Hodesh: Connection. Joining. Alignment. Standing as a connective channel between heaven and earth. While the candles are lit do a silent standing meditation. Feet together-arms facing out by our sides. Feel our feet connected to the depths of the earth, our crown open to the heavens. Imagine the light coming through you.  Radiant, warm, glowing light coming through your crown down into your feet. Radiant, warm, glowing light coming up from your feet, filling your body. Light radiating out from your hands and breath into the world.
 
Day 7. Rosh Hodesh: Zeman. Time. The holiest moment is now.
Wonder with gentleness, compassion and curiosity: What do I do with my time? What do I give my hours, days and weeks to? How can I use my time for good? How can I use my time to bring forth well being and joy? Take some time for a practice that opens you to joy and beauty.

Day 8. Chanukah- Rededication: On the eighth night we gaze at the brilliance of the flames and ask ourselves how can I best be of service? What are my gifts, my blessings, my challenges, my passions? And how can I best offer myself for the benefit and well being of all? 

We practice listening, noticing with curiosity and wonder. Sit with the candles and feel yourself in all your glory—in your brokenness, fragility and absolute beauty. With gentleness and love keep bringing you attention back to the breath moving through and within the sacred vessel of your body. We close the sit by giving thanks.
 
Each of us is a dwelling for the sacred. We ask that we recognize the sacred in ourselves and each other and do our best to act from this place of knowing the holiness in ourselves and all creation.  

Help me make my life a sanctuary in which God dwells with ease and from which my light shines forth for good and blessing for all beings.”


Yael Levy serves as the Rabbinic Director of Spiritual Development at Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia.   She also works as a spiritual director at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College  and leads mindfulness wilderness in the southwest.

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