A Chanukah thought....
Have you ever sat with a group of dear friends and walked away feeling totally elevated? I’ve had situations where spending time with nourishing girlfriends has actually led to healing a physical condition. Light is contagious. When we sit in its presence, and we absorb its effects, we are energized and uplifted.
One of Chanukah’s defining characteristics is its outwardness and public nature. The tradition is that we light the candles after nightfall, in a window or doorway so that they can be seen by passersby. An integral part of the mitzvah of kindling, is that the light should be revealed and shared.
Two thousand years ago, the Maccabees were victorious against the Greeks. They liberated Jerusalem to discover their beloved Second Temple in utter ruin, totally desecrated. As they sifted through the debris, they embarked upon restoring holiness into the space. They fashioned a Menorah with the materials at hand and after a painstaking search found a small sealed cup of oil, sufficient to ignite light for just one day. As a group set off to find an olive grove, harvest its fruit and press oil for burning - a journey that would take over one week - G-d kept the flames alight for eight days. This is the miracle of the Chanukah story, whose vibration we continue to live with till this day.
But consider the prelude to this miracle - The Greeks set out to eradicate our very connection to G-d. Theirs was a spiritual crusade. It wasn’t a matter of bloodline as we witnessed in the Holocaust, but rather a massacre of faith. Even before the miracle of the small jug of oil, there was the miracle that we actually survived this slaughter, that they didn’t succeed in severing our bond with what is holy.
Perhaps today our most tangible connection to Divinity can be experienced in our heartfelt connection to one another. Chanukah is indeed a celebration of gathering, but in my opinion, more so than any other festival, it is about radiating love during the darkest phase of the year. We do this by inspiring and uplifting our friends, our family and especially strangers. On Pesach we read in the Haggadah “Whoever is hungry, come let him eat”. On Chanukah the stranger doesn’t have to come inside to receive spiritual nourishment - he is affected merely by the sight of light in the window. When we light our candles for our neighbor to witness, we remind their soul of its constantly evolving and upwardly reaching connection to its Source - and of the very relationship the Greeks sought to destroy.
I am reminded of a quote by Marianne Williamson “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same”.
The light of every Chanukiah in a window, proudly reflects the story of our past, our survival and our triumph over darkness. It is a reminder of where we have been as a people, and gives us pride and strength to face adversity today. It is deeply connected to holiness and the light of creation - for this is why it was the first act in re-sanctifying the Temple.
But the Chanukah story also asks us to be that menorah light for one another. To uncover our own vibrance and let it radiate, so that the people we encounter feel uplifted to do the same. To go out and remind our loved ones of the light we witness in them. To be like the friends at the table who make us laugh hysterically, who believe in us and in whose reflection we see our own illuminated potential.
As the temple was rededicated with the light of the Menorah over 2000 years ago, on Chanukah today we rededicate ourselves to one another and to the pursuit of shining light on darkness in all its forms. As one of my dear teachers Rabbi Simon Jacobson says, just the smallest flicker of light can illuminate an entire room. Many of these small lights together have the power to create a brilliant flame, an uprising, a beaming lighthouse. A brightness that kindles hope. A light that dispels fear.
At home this Chanukah, we should take time to consider what we are kindling in ourselves and we should remind our loved ones of their unique and essential inner light.
As we bless the candles of the Chanukiah, while we have no idea who will witness their glow from outside, we should pray that it reaches someone who needs it and ignites the wick of their soul. Because this is the miracle of Chanukah playing out today.
May we all be blessed with an illuminated Chanukah,