Bring a little light into the world

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The air is filled with the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. Faced with the pervasiveness of Yule symbols, some Jews become angry and embittered, not unlike the child who looks through a window and resents the neighbors' festivities. Too often, what ensues is communal kvetching that sometimes turns into the bashing of Christmas — and sadly, Christians. It diminishes us.

We have a commandment: "Thou shalt not covet your neighbor's house…or anything that is your neighbor's."

While the ubiquity of Christmas reminds us we are a minority culture in a largely Christian society, we have no need to feel sorry for ourselves, We have our own symbols and our own holidays — including the weekly celebration of Shabbat and the annual celebration of Chanukah.

We have no reason to covet our neighbors' festivities. Nor should we disparage them. Instead, we need to take joy in the happiness of others and rejoice in what we have.

For one, we can take pride in our history, and the fact that our ancestors, including the Maccabees, fought against all odds to maintain their faith and their culture.

For another, we now live in a land where we can share our differences instead of hiding them. The truth is, our neighbors enjoy our customs, our candles and our cuisine. Invite them in.

And if they in turn invite you into their festively decorated homes, you can share in their happiness without making their celebration your own.

There is enough richness to go around. As we celebrate the Festival of Lights, let us be mindful there is much we can do to bring light into the lives of those around us.

Unfortunately, there are many at this time of year, Jewish and non-Jewish, who have little joy in their lives. What can we do to make their world a little brighter? What can we do to deliver the true gifts of the heart?

Let us keep those thoughts in mind as we light our chanukiot and pray for a brighter year.