Alternative blessings for Chanukah

By: Rabbi Moshe Shmaryahu

On Chanukah, the feast of the lights, each child knows the sentence: “Each one is a small light, and we are all a strong light.” This is a strong and empowering sentence that sometimes gets lost in dancing and other Chanukah activities held in kindergarten and in class, and it is important to dwell on it and explain it to our children.
In general, Chanukah (chet nun kaf hey) has significant meaning for speech and education. From the beginning, the holiday is derived from the Hebrew root chet nun kaf (which also means education), and the fact that, for eight days in a row, family and friends gather for a few sacred (koph dalet vav shin) moments during a weekday. This enables us as parents and educators to talk and impart to our children values and ideas that can take the significance of this holiday one step further beyond doughnuts and dreidels.
So we have eight days and in each of them about 15 minutes of keshev – attention – which makes this an opportunity to think about eight alternative blessings that can be used when lighting Chanukah candles:
First candle: “Be like the light” – Try to be positive, intelligent, supportive, open and accepting, and a little less judgmental and critical toward one another, and toward yourself.
Second candle: “Spread the light around you” – Just as a stone can produce ripples in water, and even the smallest candle can produce light and heat, your positivity will seep through you easily, do not limit it.
Third candle: “Surround yourself with light” – Sometimes, all it takes to expel the darkness is to demand the light. If we ask ourselves positive things and surround ourselves with positive people, darkness will become less and less legitimate in our lives and in general.
Fourth candle: “Know to find the light even in the dark places” – The light is always there, but sometimes you have to look for it. It is easy to decide that there is no good way to look at a situation, but here we are measured by our ability to strengthen ourselves and the environment. Optimism is the name of the game.
Fifth candle: “Speak in language and in terms of light” – Language and speech affect how we feel and how we make others feel. We have a treasure of beautiful and respectful words. And even if sometimes we find it difficult to find something good to say, you can always think how we would want to hear things. A more pleasant word will make the environment feel more pleasant, so why not use it?
Sixth candle: “Cooperate with others to produce a solid light” – Forward news of positivity, of a good and clean language. The fact that we are light and the fact that our environment is light can become a real force. Everyone is or kayan (a small light), but all of us are or etan (strong light). Our strength is when we are together. 
Seventh candle: “Remember that you are our light” – We have to remember to tell them that. It sometimes seems obvious to us that people we love know we love them, but it’s also important to say so.
Eighth candle: “Remember to say to those you love that they are also your light” – So they could say it back to you.
Rabbi Moshe Shmaryahu is the head of Judaic studies at Hillel Academy of Broome County. He dedicated this article “with love and admiration for my students, parents and fellow teachers at Hillel Academy.”