There are many deep meanings to this so called minor holiday.
The historical Hanukah is harrowing and miraculous in its own light (pardon the pun). A small group of dedicated people fight for religious freedom. The Maccabean war was not fought to make others follow our path. It was a struggle for our people’s right to worship our way. It might be the only war in history fought ONLY for religious freedom.
For some, the holiday of lights is simply the awareness of the winter solstice by an ancient people.
For traditional Jews, the miracle of the sanctified oil which burned bright for eight days is a miracle of G. It is a call to faith.
In my heart, the religious aspects of the holiday are powerful and personal. The miracle of the oil redirects us away from battle and blood. It directs us toward a deep spiritual light.
The story of oil lasting eight days is a mighty metaphor for our power to be part of the Godding process of creating light.
On the first day, G created light, not the visible light that requires a physical source, the sun and moon and stars. The light that G created before the heavenly sources of light were brought into being was a hidden light. The Baal Shem Tov said: “Light (אור) is the numerical equivalent of secret (רז). Whoever knows the secret can bring illumination” The Hanukah candles (נרות) are a hint, a key to that secret light. The Chinese have a proverb that we all have heard. But clichés are clichés for a reason. “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness!”
Our Hanukah ritual of light speaks to our interpretation of that proverb. Every year we light our Hanukiyot in joy, in hope, in faith. We look back at the history of Hanukah in faith. We look forward in hope and we light with those close to us in the joy of family and friends and those who light up our lives.
Sometimes the hidden light is found in plain sight. Our candles shed light into the darkness and enlighten our lives with sweet memories. And that light touches our souls. In proverbs (20:27) we are taught: “the candle of G is the soul of man.”
And so when we hold a child’s hand and guide hir to light, when we sing the songs together and seat our children on our laps and tell the stories, the light glows brighter. When newlyweds light the one Hanukiyah and dream of lighting more with children to be, when elders look into the light of old Hanukiyot and memories dance in the flames, the flames burn brighter.
The historical Hanukah, the religious stories of Hanukah, all are the candles that provide the fuel for the lighting of the sacred light of our lives. When we retell the stories with our friends, with children on our laps are the matches that have the potential of lighting the eternal light, the original light of creation.
The memories that we recall and the memories that we create are the flames that we ignite for our people, our families and our souls.
“Kindle your own candle, ignite your soul, Hanukah is your story” (Likutay Halachot).