What do we think of when we think of Hanukah. If you are under 18 or a parent of someone under 18, you think of gifts. Most adults think of Latkes and lights. If we let our minds flow to a deeper place, the miracle of the oil comes to mind. We speak of a small cruse of oil that lasted for eight days. And yet, the story of the “miracle of the oil” was written at least 200 years after the events that are the basis of our holiday. The story begins in blood and flame and fervor for freedom. And yet, the battle with the Syrian Greeks has lost its luster in world fraught with war and death. Many people say that the story of the “miracle of the oil” was written to elevate the emphasis of Hanukah. In the physical realm, Hanukah is the story of a war for religious freedom. The story of the “miracle of the oil” is rooted in the understanding that these eight days also belong in the realm of the spirit. The story of the “miracle of the oil” may not live in the realm of facts and history, but it shines bright in the realm of truth and faith.
The story comes to us to shed some light (pun intended) upon the holiday called dedication” (Hanukah חנוכה means dedication).
The Lamp that our people lit in the Holy Temple every day was the seven branched Menorah. Today we find a remnant of it in many Synagogues. We call it the Ner Tamid (נר תמיד). That term, usually translated as “Eternal Light” really means the “Regular Light” or “The Light of Consistency”. The sacred Menorah of the Temple, is the oldest of all Jewish symbols. It was lit daily with the sacred oil. That seven branch Menorah is the symbol of Shabbat, a symbol of creation and the symbol of the Jewish people.
The Hanukiyah, that we light every year on Hanukah, was made by simply adding another branch to the Menorah. In a sense, it was adding a little light to our history and to our spiritual dimension. Therefore, the Hanukiyah, an extension of the Menorah/Ner Tamid, is a symbol of our desire for spiritual consistency.
We are all inconsistent beings. But we strive for consistency within our inconsistency. That is one of the lessons of the Hanukiyah. When our ancestors added the extra branch, the total number of lights equaled nine, not eight. So one was raised and called the Shamash. Shamash (שמש) means officiant, minister, attendant, in other words, helper. And it also is the word for sun.
In Breashit, it says that G created the sun to help us with Mo’adim (מועדים), the meeting times with G, and to delineate the Shanah (שנה), the year. Shanah has another meaning, a Remez (Key/clue) meaning, it means to grow, to change through learning.
The story of the Hanukiyah really does shed a little extra light on the Holy time of Hanukah. The Shamash (שמש) of the Hanukiyah reminds us to create for ourselves, Mo’adim(מועדים) , “Sacred Meeting Times” with G, within ourselves. By so doing, we create the Shanah (שנה), of sacred changes that we must make ‘consistently’ (Tamid), in our lives. That is one of the reasons why we are not to use the Hanukiah for any mundane purpose. It is there to give light and joy, not to be used to find the car keys.
When we light the Hanukiyah this year, I will be thinking of it as a Mo’ed, a sacred time of meeting. Hanukah is an eight day time of hope, the hope for and the promise to create the changes that we want to make, seeking the growth that we want to attempt to build into our life. This year, I will be seeking the consistency in my growth, in my learning, in the changes that make my life whole.
And my blessing for all of us:
May this Hanukah be joyous and filled with light.
May this Hanukah be a sacred meeting time with our soul.
May this Hanukah be a time of good changes in our lives.