Hanukkah began as a military holiday celebrating the capture and rededication of the Jerusalem Temple around 160 C.E. About 200 years later, however, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Some Jewish leaders of the period said Hanukkah should be abolished. Since the Temple was destroyed, why celebrate its rededication?
The answer lay in the most profound Jewish idea: hope. While the Temple was destroyed, hope was not.
Hope is not blind optimism. It is faithfulness, confidence, and vision, combined with a determination to act. Hope has sustained the Jewish people through countless experiences of persecution and exile. Hope is the conviction that what was once destroyed can be rebuilt.
Tonight let us praise the power of hope. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks put it, “The Jewish people kept hope alive, and hope kept the Jewish people alive.”