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Jewish commentary on the Christmas Gospel

KUL Heschel Center / 24.12.2022
Photo credit: KUL Heschel Center
Photo credit: KUL Heschel Center

As we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, maybe at times plunged into darkness, we should always remember and have faith that God almighty will re-kindle the light in our souls. Together we can bring light to the whole world and rekindle the fire,” Rabbi Oded Peles, a Jewish cantor, musicologist and Israeli educator, writes for the Heschel Center of the Catholic University of Lublin in a commentary on the Gospel of St. John.

We publish a full test of the commentary on Sunday’s Gospel for Christmas Day

How do we react at difficult moments, how do we behave at periods which seem darker in our life?

On Adam and Eve’s first winter on Earth the days turned shorter and shorter.

The sages in the Babylon Talmud tell us that when Adam, the first man saw that the day was progressively diminishing, as the days become shorter from the autumnal equinox until the winter solstice, he did not yet know that this is a normal phenomenon, and therefore he was afraid and said: perhaps because I have sinned the world is becoming darker and darker and will ultimately return to the state of chaos and disorder. And this is the death that was sentenced upon me from Heaven, as it is written: “And to dust shall you return” (Genesis 3:19). He arose and spent eight days in fasting and in prayer.

Once he saw that the winter solstice, had arrived, and saw that the day was progressively lengthening he said: clearly, the days become shorter and then longer, and this is the order of the world. He went and observed a festival for eight days.

What was actually the miracle that we celebrate and commemorate on the festival of lights, on Hanukah?

After a long period without a light of the Menorah in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, after a long dark period – some people still had the faith and believed that the light shall return. They believed that even though human beings are mortal – faith, light, the universe, GOD almighty is eternal. The faith encouraged them to be courage and re-kindle the Menorah, relight the Temple, renew the holy worship and relight their souls.

My late Grandmother, who passed away during the festival of Hanukah, always had the faith that someone is guarding us and even during the darkest days of the Second World War, she believed that the light shall rise and return. She was privileged to enjoy lots of lights and grandchildren in her life time.

Rabbi A. I. Kook on the early 20th Century taught us that “each and every one of us must know and understand that a candle burns within us, thought each person and each candle are different. Each person must make an effort to reveal the inner light within him – to the community. Together we make a big bright light to lit and kindle the entire world”.

Particularly during these times in winter, in challenging periods, as we celebrate Christmas and Hanukah, we should always remember and have faith that the Glory, that God almighty who dwells within us, will re-kindle our souls and the world.

“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”. (John 1:9).


About the Author

Cantor, musicologist, Israeli educator and tour guide, Rabbi Oded Peles was born in Petach Tikva, Israel to a Dutch-German Jewish family. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a renowned cantor of the Rotterdam synagogue, the Netherlands, Oded has served and performed as a Cantor in communities worldwide, for over thirty years.


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