Hanukah Commentaries

59 thoughts on “Hanukah Commentaries

  1. Aryae Post author

    Reb Shlomo

    Collected by Reb Sholom Brodt

    Chanukah Gems from Reb Shlomo zt”l on

    Why does fire flicker all the time? Fire flickers because it is longing so much for something holy and exalted.
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    Light is the level of the reaching higher than yourself, deeper than everything in the world. You can learn something and know more or feel more.
    This is not the level of light yet. Sometimes you learn a word and it gets very deep in your heart. Suddenly you reach somewhere deeper than the deepest part of yourself. This is called light. That is where you have your house.
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    The house is the one place where you are yourself. More isn’t the best word.
    You are really yourself. You reach so deep that it is infinite.
    ———————
    On Chanukah we want to wipe our pagan worship. In Hebrew pagan worship is called, ‘Avodah Zarah’ – strange worship. That means pagan worship is worship that you are a stranger to. You are serving God, but you are serving God like a stranger. You do everything like stranger. The whole meaning of Chanukah is that we are wiping out ‘Avodah Zara’, wiping out ‘strange worship’. Everything we do has to flow from the deepest depths of our hearts.
    Many of us Jews are strangers to our own holidays. We are strangers to everything holy. We do it, but who cares about it? We don’t feel anything before we celebrate a holiday, and we don’t feel anything afterwards.
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    Why are we losing our children? There is nothing in the Yiddishkeit that we offer them. If you tell children something and it doesn’t come from the deepest depths of your heart, they don’t want to listen. They are 100% right. To tell the truth, I don’t want to buy it either.

    I want to bless you and me and all our children that we should always find people to teach us about God. We should feel close to it. We should feel at home with it.
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    If we danced with our children each time they learned one more letter, they would keep on learning. Each time a child learns one letter it is mind blowing! If we realized this, each time a child learned one more word of Torah we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves for joy. Then our children would keep on learning.
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    The blessing that we say over the light is, ‘l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah’ – to kindle the light of Chanukah. We don’t say, ‘…b’Chanukah’ – to kindle the light on Chanukah. We kindle the light OF Chanukah. That means that the light is there already. We have only to kindle it. The light we are seeing right now is the light of my grandfather and your grandfather. It is actually the light of the Kohanim, the Priests. It is the same light that burned from the bit of oil which lasted eight days in the time of the Holy Temple. It’s the SAME light. It is waiting in Heaven all year to be brought down through kindling of the Chanukah lamps.
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    Rav Nachman said that any time you make a mistake, you hate one person in the world. This is because a mistake makes your heart unholy. Obviously, the people who hate the whole world have made many mistakes.

    I want to share something unbelievable with you. On Yom Kippur, God forgives us for our mistakes. On Simchas Torah we dance them off. When does God fix our hearts? When does He take out all the hatred and all the evil from our hearts? When does God give us back the holiness of seeing somebody else’s light and saying a blessing over it? When do we see that somebody else’s light is SO beautiful? On Chanukah!

    Chanukah is the time of Aaron the High Priest. Aaron’s specialty was making peace between two people. How can someone make peace between people? Aaron HaKohen had the holiness of being able to actually cleanse a person’s heart of hatred. This is a very special blessing.

    Each time you make a mistake you hurt somebody. But you know what else? Each time you make a mistake, sadly enough, you love your children less. Your heart is not pure enough any more. Children need a pure heart. The need the purest light.

    When does God clean our hearts again so we can have the privilege of giving over Torah to our children? On Chanukah.

    The holiness of Chanukah lights is that they burn even in the middle of the night. We are crying, “If I make mistakes again next year, let this Chanukah light shine oil into all my darkness. Let this Chanukah light keep me from ever hating people. Let this Chanukah light give me so much holiness that all the darkness of the world can not take away my love for my children.”
    Chanukah is the highest kind of fixing the world.

    If each time you make a mistake you hate somebody else, let’s face it, each time you make a mistake you hate yourself. Each time you make a mistake you get further away from your own neshamah, from your own heart. On Yom Kippur God fixes your soul. But when does your light shine again? When can you look in the mirror and see a great light instead of a shmendrik? When do you see your light again? On Chanukah. All year long whatever you do you think is nothing. Whenever you do anything you think, “It’s bad. It’s stupid. It’s nothing.” This is because you think so little of yourself. On Chanukah you kindle a candle and you know it’s God’s light. You realize you are bringing down God’s light. You realize that you have been bringing God’s light down into the world all year long.

    I want to bless you and bless myself that this Chanukah should fix us. It should reach the darkest corners in our hearts. Everybody knows that the nights of Chanukah are the longest and the darkest nights. This means that the light of Chanukah reaches into the darkest places. In the dark night I suddenly realize, “Gevalt, this is God’s light!”
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    The young people of today are not unlike the young people in the days of the Maccabees. They too have strayed from their holy tradition. We need someone like Judah Maccabee to show us how beautiful it is to be a Jew. Young people must understand that G-d needs each of them to make a special contribution to our religion, that only they are capable of making. Every day we are supposed to add new lights. G-d wants even the most alienated person to be a shining light. On Chanukah we see in the shining lights only the beauty of people.
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    Everybody knows that Chanukah is the culmination of the high holidays. We are accustomed to think that joy and bliss are the highest a human being can aspire to, but our holy rabbis teach us that light is even deeper. So after Simhas Torah, when we experience the greatest joy in the world, we come to Chanukah. Chanukah is the Festival of Light. Chanukah is when we initiate the Third Temple, which shall be rebuilt soon. It is the one week of Chanukah, when every Jewish home is a little bit of the Holy Temple, which gives us the strength to hold out until the Holy Temple will be here for always.
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    Chanukah has two outstanding characteristics:

    On every other holiday you don’t need a house. On Chanukah you need a house to kindle light at the door. On Chanukah when I see someone else kindling, I also say a blessing. When do I know that I’m at home with the Torah? When do I know that the light of the Torah is really my own? If I blow my mind over everyone else’s good deed and I can’t control myself, I have to say a blessing over it.

    It is possible to live in the same house as your wife and children and be strangers to one another. On Chanukah every person in the house is kindling light; every night the light is becoming stronger and deeper and more.

    Our age is the age of strangers. We’re strangers in our own homes; we’re strangers in our own land; we’re strangers in our own religion.

    Let this Chanukah open the gates for all of us — the lights of Chanukah at the gates to show how holy everyone else is. Let this Chanukah give us the strength to bring light to the whole world, because people only hate each other when they have no home. So our light of Chanukah will show the whole world how deep life is — how deep it is to serve G-d.

    The holy Ishbitzer says the greatest blessing one Jew can give another is to feel at home with the Torah. So many of our generation are assimilated only because nobody made them feel at home with Yiddishkeit. You and I should be privileged to kindle light at the gate of everyone’s heart to make everyone
    feel at home.
    ———————–
    Chanukah is the Festival of Light, the one Light, the only\Light. The Light which will save the world. Let it be soon.\
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    Sometimes we blow out our own candles; so on\Chanukah Hashem gives us back the light we need the\most.\
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    Chanukah is the holiday when the Talmud says,\”Chanukah is a man and his house,” meaning that the\whole family has to come together. Because between\husband and wife, parents and children, you can stand\next to each other for a thousand years and be as far\away as two million eternities.
    Chanukah is the great\light when we see each other again; according to the\Kabbalistic tradition it is deeper than Yom Kippur. It\is the holy of holiest, not in the Holy Temple, but in my\own house. We kindle the light by the door to tell the\people — the outside people — who have not yet found\their own house, who have not yet found their own\soul, who have not yet found even their own friend.\And we share our light with them.\ \ All the hatred in the world is only because people\don’t see each other.
    Chanukah is the holiday that we\are closest to the Messiah and, gevalt, do we need the\world to see us one time! And gevalt, do we need all\the Jews one time to see the holiness of being Jewish!\Let it be this year. Amen.\
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    Thank G-d we have good street lights. People can find the banks, the movies, the nightclubs and the ice cream parlors. But the world is still dark, because the light in the world is to see your own heart, to see the people you love, to really see the deepest depths of life, the deepest depths of the Torah.
    ———————–
    Good Chanukah, Good Yom Tov, G-d needs every light of Hanukah. G-d needs every Jewish home. The world needs every Jewish home to fill the whole world with light.
    Love
    Shlomo

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  2. Aryae Post author

    Aryae

    From: HolyBeggars: A Journey From Haight Street to Jerusalem

    December 1968 – House of Love and Prayer

    “By the big Hassidishe rebbes,” Shlomo says, “the greatest thing in the world is to make wicks for the Hanukah lights.” It’s late afternoon before the first night of Hanukah. We’re sitting around the big table in the dining room, across from the prayer room. A dozen of us around the table, another eight or ten on metal chairs between the table and the cabinets across the room. A few more people are sitting on the floor, leaning against the cabinets.

    On the table there are shot glasses, dozens of them, and blue boxes of cotton, the kind you get at the drug store. At the other end are a couple of large bottles of olive oil. I watch Chaya open a box. She does it very carefully, slowly pulling out the paper roll from inside, gingerly pulling back the blue paper and removing the fluffy white cotton. She lays it on top of a little pile of cotton rolls near the shot glasses. Shlomo is also watching her. He sees me looking at him and suddenly flashes me a smile. “Chayale’s the sweetest!” he says.

    I look up at Bernice, who’s sitting in a metal chair, holding Judy in her lap. She grins at me. The chair looks too small for her. Marvin, sitting next to her, is whispering something to a young guy sitting on the floor. They laugh. I can hear the front door open and close, and then Donna walks in. Shlomo sees her, stands up to give her a hug, and invites her to join everyone at the table. Someone gets her a chair. It’s hard to squeeze it in at the table, so she sits back a little, near Marv and Bernice.

    The late afternoon light is glowing in from the dining room windows. It makes Alex’s red beard and payas look even redder. He’s sitting directly across the table from Shlomo, facing the window. I’m sitting next to Shlomo, on his left, facing the room. It’s starting to get dark inside but no one wants to break the mood by switching on the ceiling lights. In a couple of hours, when it’s time to light the candles, other people will come to be with us, lots of them. I don’t know how they will find out. We haven’t done any publicity. But when Shlomo’s here, it always seems to happen. All of us sitting around the table can feel it. For now, we’re enjoying the quiet, the sweetness of this special time together. No one is saying anything. I can hear people breathing. Time is moving so slowly, or maybe not at all.

    Shlomo picks up one of the cotton rolls, tears off a piece of cotton, and rolls it into a wick. I’m surprised at how quick and expert his hands are at this task. Soon he has a small pile of wicks in front of him. One by one, the rest of us at the table start doing the same. I feel the soft cotton in my hands. My wick is bulging in the middle. I try to even it out, to make it straight. My hands feel clumsy. Alex seems to have gotten the hang of it, and soon has as many wicks as Shlomo.

    “By Lubavitch,” Shlomo says, “the wick is the symbol of the body, and the oil is the symbol of the soul. Everybody knows that eight days is the symbol of infinity. The whole thing of Hanukah is the holiness of this one drop of oil. We each have it, one drop of pure, holy oil.

    “You know, the first two Hebrew letters of Hannukah are hes and nun, which stand for hinuch, education. How does the world say we should educate our children? Children, what do they know, right? So in kindergarten, we give them some toys to play with, and in first grade we teach them the ABCs, and in 2nd grade, maybe we teach them the multiplication tables. Then by the time they get to graduate school, if we haven’t already turned them off to everything, maybe we can start to talk about what really matters, about the meaning of life, about what they’re here in this world to do, right?

    “Let me ask you something else. How do you teach Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? Hardest thing in the world, right? I remember I sat in a class at Columbia University, where a distinguished professor gave a lecture on the Theory of Relativity. It was so complicated, I hate to say it, but I couldn’t understand what he was talking about.” He laughs. “There was another professor sitting next to me. After the class he says to me, ‘You know, once I was privileged to hear Professor Einstein himself, teaching Relativity to a class of 2nd graders. And you know what? They understood it!’

    “So you know, my darling friends, you know how deep this is?” He closes his eyes and rocks back and forth, like he’s davening. Then he stops and looks around at us. “It means that someone who really knows, like Einstein, knows with a different kind of knowing. He sees how a child has the vessels, and he knows how to give him the whole thing.”

    The room is very quiet. I look across the table. Alex has his eyes closed. He’s stroking his beard and rocking back and forth like Shlomo. Judy is sleeping now in Bernice’s lap. Miriam is on the stairs, holding Noah, looking at Alex and Shlomo.

    “After the Holy Temple was desecrated, people said, ‘Why bother?’ Right? There’s not enough oil.” Suddenly Shlomo looks up. His eyes quickly scan the room, taking in everyone. He smiles at Miriam. “Okay my friends, listen with your heart. You know what our problem is? We underestimate ourselves. We underestimate our children. I look at myself, I look at them, and I say, ‘How long can this drop last? How far can it go?’ The miracle of Hanukah is, just light it. Just light the light, and with this one drop, you can keep going forever.”

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  3. Wendy

    From Rabbi Hershel Yolles

    A few words about Chanukah:

    It was, if you will, an energy crisis. The pure, uncontaminated oil for the Menorah should only have lasted for one night, but it lasted for eight. So, it was not an energy crisis in the mundane meaning, but rather a spiritual energy crisis. .., and thus there was a spiritual solution provided by HaShem to show His appreciation for the self-sacrifice of the Jews, few in numbers and weak militarily. For their self-sacrifice in battling the mighty Greek armed forces of a super power. And as we conclude in the Haftara “lo bachayil v’lo bakoach ki im b’ruchi amar HaShem Tzivakot” ” ‘not through armies and not through might, but through My spirit’ says HaShem Master of Legions” (Zechariah 4:6). In fact the light of the menorah that burned on the first Chanukah IS the OR HAGANUZ. The light of “let there be light” from the beginning of Creation.

    Indeed the Or HaGanuz shines in each one’s Chanukah candles. The Chanukah candles that we light, each and all of us, is the Or HaGanuz that shines in our homes. The Baal Shem Tov explains that the Or HaGanuz (the light that was hidden at Creation) was hidden in Torah study. By our dedication to increase our learning Torah, not coerced but with the joy that it brings, we hasten the inflow of the total and perceived Or HaGanuz. And through our contribution this will be revealed for all to see at the time of the eagerly awaited Tikkun Olam with the arrival of Mashiach.

    L’Ilui Nishmat HaRav HaTzaddik Rabbeinu Chanan Velvel Simcha a”h ben Reb Elya sheyichye

    Love,

    Hershel

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  4. Wendy

    From Michael Chusid, RAFCSI
    Hearing Shofar: The Still Small Voice of the Rams Horn

    The following is from Volume Three of my book:

    Hanukah: References to “trumpets”[117] in 1 Maccabees announce themes that underlie the holiday. For example, we learn the importance of the faith that undergirded the Hasmodean revolt:

    “They fasted that day, put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on their heads, and rent their clothes…and they cried aloud to Heaven, saying, “…How will we be able to withstand them, if thou dost not help us?” Then they sounded the trumpets and gave a loud shout.”[118]

    We recall their struggle at arms:

    “Then the men with Judas blew their trumpets and engaged in battle. The Gentiles were crushed and fled into the plain, and all those in the rear fell by the sword.”[119]

    And we are called to rededicate ourselves as they rededicated the Temple:

    “Then said Judas and his brothers, ‘Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.’ …They fell face down on the ground, and sounded the signal on the trumpets, and cried out to Heaven. Then Judas detailed men to fight against those in the citadel until he had cleansed the sanctuary.”[120]

    The celebration after the Temple was restored lasted for eight days. Some historians propose that theses days allowed the Jews to belatedly observe the eight days of Sukkah and Shemini Atzeret, holidays that could not be observed in the Temple during their customary dates. The Book of Maccabees, for example, says, “They celebrated it…with great joy, like they would have celebrated Sukkot…”[121] As noted in the comments about Sukkah (above), this would have occasioned shofar sounding on Hanukah.

    More, Psalms say to blow shofar on the new moon, an event that coincides with the final night of Hanukah, on Rosh Hodesh Tevet when the month of Tevet begins.

    As you light you hanukiah – Hanukah candelabra, listen closely. In the quiet whisper of the burning flames you may still hear the timeless blare of the ram’s horn calling us to dedicate ourselves to the cause of freedom. Better yet, blow the shofar to help, “retell the things that befell us.”[123]

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  5. Wendy

    From Rabbi Jill Hammer The Jewish Book of Days

    Feast of Double Life

    According to the commentary known as the B’nei Yissachar, the matriarch Leah conceives Issachar during Hanukkah. In Genesis, Leah’s son Reuben brings her some mandrakes (an aphrodisiac and fertility aid) and her sister, Rachel, wants them because she has never been able to conceive. Leah trades Rachel the mandrakes for a night with Jacob, their husband.

    Leah, the mother of six sons and one daughter, is intimately linked to Hanukkah. Leah plus all her children equals 8. Furthermore, the Hebrew word “Leah” adds up (in the Jewish numerology known as gematria) to 36, the nember of Hanukkah candles we light. The Hebrew word for “life”, chai, equals 18; and 36, in gematria, is double chai, or twice life.

    Thus double chai of Hanukkah could refer to Rachel and Leah, the sisters who battle over their husband, Jacob. In the midrash by Norma Rosen, Leah and Rachel conspire to pour their life forces together. Each acknowledges the other’s share in creating the tribes of Israel.

    On Hanukkah, as we light the 36 candles, we remember Leah–whose name equals the double chai— and Rachel who helped Leah give life. We too ask for double life: life for us and for the world.

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  6. Wendy

    From Rabbi Jill Hammer The Jewish Book of Days

    Woman of Fire

    Seventh Day of Hanukkah/New Moon of Tevet

    The book of Judith tells that Holofernes, a general of Nebuchadnezzar, beseiges Judith’s city, Bethulia. The city elders want to surrender. Judith, a wise, beautiful, and pious widow, promises to save the city. She goes to the enemy camp an convinces Holofernes that she believes in his victory. Flattered, he plans to seduce her. While he sleeps, she cuts off his head. The enemy flees, the city is saved, and Judith leads a procession to the Temple. Though Judith’s story is not a Hanukkah story, many medieval menorahs bear Judith’s image. Judith is a flaming branch, a symbol of the light chasing away the darkness of winter. When she returns from her brave deed, the people light candles to welcome her. We remember Judith’s story at the season of inner fire.

    Jews of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia celebrated 1 Tevet as the Festival of the Daughters, a time to honor Judith and all heroines. Mothers would give their daughters gifts on that day and pass inheritances to them. Old women and young women would come together to dance. Another tradition was for women to pray for the health of their daughters. 1 Tevet, the darkest night of winter, is a time to draw the generations together, letting the root of one generation grow into a new cluster of strong branches.

    Source cited, Judith 13:3-16

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  7. Wendy

    From Rav Kook

    Adapted by Reb Chanan Morrison

    Chanukah: The Single Light of Chanukah

    Before lighting the Chanukah lights, we recite the blessing, “Who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.”

    Why does the blessing refer to a single light – ‘the Chanukah light’? We light several candles each night; why not say ‘the Chanukah lights’?

    Chinuch and Chanukah

    The word Chanukah means ‘dedication,’ referring to the re- dedication of the Temple after its desecration by Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV. Chanukah shares the same Hebrew root as chinuch – ‘education.’ But chinuch is the masculine form of the word while chanukah is the feminine form. Why is this?

    Rav Kook explained that the goal of education is to nurture students by inculcating good habits and conduct. Education develops their innate talents and natural integrity, and has a positive influence over the years to come. Therefore the word chinuch is in the masculine form, as it indicates an active process of striving and developing inner potential.

    The dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, however, was a greatly different situation. From when the Temple was first established, it already encompassed all of its greatness and holiness. Future times will merely reveal the holiness that it always contained. Thus the Temple’s dedication is called chanukah. The feminine form of the word is used, denoting a state of intrinsic holiness and completeness.

    The Lights of Israel

    The lights of Chanukah are a metaphor for the blessings of enlightenment that the Jewish people bestow to the world. All of the nation’s potential spiritual gifts are included in the dedication of Chanukah: Torah, prophecy, morality, wisdom, justice, compassion, and so on. Like the Temple, these are qualities inherent in the people of Israel – so the word chanukah is appropriate.

    Sometimes these ‘lights’ emphasize their distinct nature in order to make their full contribution, even at the expense of other ideals. Such divisions, however, can lead to internal strife. Those who stress one particular ideal may look upon those who promote other ideals as detracting from a more important value. In truth, when each individual advances that light that corresponds to the inner makeup of his soul, the entire people of Israel is enriched.

    But these conflicts will not exist forever. As long as there is strife and dissention, holiness cannot be properly established. In the future it will become clear that all of the different lights share a common root, and are really one single light. Therefore, the blessing of Chanukah, which also encompasses the future potential, speaks of a single ‘Chanukah light.’

    [Adapted from Olat Re’iyah, pp. 433-435]

    This is a link to six other commentaries by Rav Kook on Chanukah
    http://www.ravkooktorah.org/ind_sund.htm

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  8. Wendy

    From Neo Hasid Website, http://www.NeoHasid.org

    Reb Nachman from Rabbi David Seidenberg
    The Existential Dreidel
    Heh is Hiyuli, primordial; Nun is Nivdal, the transcendental; Gimel is Galgal, the celestial; Shin is Shafal, the physical.

    from Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom (Sichot Haran), sec. 40

    A Rotating Wheel

    The world is a rotating wheel. It is like a dreidel, where everything goes in cycles. Human becomes angel, and angel becomes human. Head becomes foot and foot becomes head. Everything goes in cycles, revolving and alternating. All things interchange, one from another and one to another, elevating the low and lowering the high.

    All things have one root. There are transcendental beings, such as angels, which have no connection with the material. There is the celestial world, whose essence is very tenuous. Finally, there is the world below, which is completely physical. All three come from different realms but all have the same root.

    All creation is like a rotating wheel, revolving and oscillating. At one time something can be on top like a head with another on the bottom like a foot. Then the situation is reversed. Head becomes foot and foot becomes head. Man becomes angel and angel becomes man…

    For the world is like a rotating wheel. It spins like a dreidel, with all things emanating from one root.

    (The feet of some are also higher than the heads of others. For in the transcendental worlds, the lowest level of an upper world is higher than the highest level of a lower one. And still, everything revolves in cycles.)

    The Temple: Highest Below and Lowest Above.

    Chanukah means dedication. This is the dedication of the Holy Temple, “the highest below and the lowest above.” This revolving wheel is the dreidel. That is why we play with a dreidel on Chanukah.

    The primary concept of the Temple is the revolving wheel. The Temple was in the category of “the highest below and the lowest above”. God lowered His presence into the Temple and this is “the highest below”. The Temple’s pattern was engraved on high: “the lowest above”. The Temple is therefore like a dreidel, a rotating wheel, where everything revolves and is reversed.

    The Temple refutes philosophical logic. God is above every transcendental concept, and it is beyond all logic that God should constrict God’s self into the vessels of the Temple. “Behold the heaven and the heaven of heaven cannot contain You, how much less this Temple!” (I Kings 8:27).

    (Philosophy cannot explain how humanity can have any influence on high. It cannot say how a mere animal can be sacrificed and rise as a sweet savor giving pleasure to God. They [theologians] explain that this pleasure is the fulfillment of God’s will, but how can we even apply the concept of desire to God?)

    But God placed God’s presence in the Temple and accepts the animal as a sweet savor. God made the fact contradict philosophical logic. Such logic is crushed by the dreidel, the rotating wheel which brings the “highest below and the lowest above”.

    One Root to All Things

    Between potential and existence stands the power of hyle [primordial matter from which the world was created]. The three categories of creation—transcendental, celestial, physical—all come from this one root. As they interchange, they all revolve around this root.

    The letters on the dreidel are Heh, Nun, Gimel, Shin.

    Heh is Hiyuli, primordial [from the Greek word hyle].
    Nun is Nivdal, the transcendental [from the word for separation].
    Gimel is Galgal, the celestial [from the word for sphere].
    Shin is Shafal, the physical [from the word for fallen].

    The dreidel thus includes all creation. It goes in cycles, alternating and revolving, one thing becoming another.

    Redemption Is a Wheel

    Redemption is also an alternating cycle. Like in the Temple, the highest are below and the lowest above. Redemption was for the sake of the Temple, the revolving wheel. For when the highest are below and the lowest above, it shows that all things have one root.

    This is the aspect of the verse, “You redeemed the tribe of Your inheritance, Mount Zion.” This is [again] the meaning of the letters on the dreidel. They are the first letters of the verse: Go’alto Shevet Nachalatekha Har Tziyon.

    It is the aspect of the Holy Temple [on Mount Zion, Har Tziyon], symbolizing the revolving wheel which is the main concept of redemption.

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  9. Wendy

    From Rabbi Ivan Ickovits 2007

    Some years ago when talking with Pir Vilayat he mentioned the dervish practice of gazing at a fire for insights into the future. This time of year I find myself putting that into practice.

    One of the exercised of Chanukah is gazing at the lit candles each night. If you look at the sum total of all the candles for the 8 nights not including the lighting candle there are a total of 36 candles.<1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8 = 36> Some midrashes connect this 36 with the number of hours in the Garden of Eden that the primordial light at the beginning of creation was in place, before the exile from the garden, and before hiding of that primordial light. Now according to some traditions, we don’t have ready access to that primordial light, but do get temporary access at very special times of year. Chanukah is a time of access. So when repeating the blessings over the candles some people say Ner shel Chanukah, and others say Ner Chanukah. This is because for some this is just a cyclical return to lighting candles for chanukah, and for others this is the reconnection with the primordial light of creation back in the garden which was reputed to be of such clarity and purity so as to allow prophetic vision of what is to come. (some traditions relate the 36 candles with the need or 36 enlightened beings who sustain the flow from the upper regions into manifested creation sometimes known as the lamed vavniks—the thirty sixers.

    In the spinning of the dreidel, some folks take the 4 faces of the dreidel to be indicative of the 4 kingdoms that have ruled and governed the children of Israel over the years. The central axis of the dreidel is indicative of the power of unity focused on a central point of rotation—the Holy One of Being. Again gazing at the spinning dreidel one can be pulled into the flow of history and human evolution continuously transforming but anchored on the One.

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  10. Wendy

    Chanukah Lesson
    It’s Never Too late From Rabbi Gershon Winkler

    Chanukah commemorates an historic event in which a disarmed invaded minority of Jews
    overthrew a powerful, heavily- armed invading majority of Greco-Assyrians some 2,200 years ago. It was then a very dark time for the Jewish people living in Israel, a period that seemed to grow darker and darker as the invading ruler not only stripped them of their national autonomy but also enforced religious edicts that were antithetical to their own ways. Those who violated the bans were slaughtered (First Maccabees 1:44-61).

    Inspired by the bold speech and action of Channah the daughter of the then High Priest Matit’yanu (Midrash Ma’aseh Chanukah, and Midrash L’Chanukah), the Jewish people dared to engage the massive war machine of the Greco-Assyrians and miraculously succeeded in recovering their commonwealth.

    Having won back our freedom to practice our traditions, the elders decided to celebrate the most recent festival which we had been forbidden to celebrate: “Sukkot and Sh’mee’nee Chag Ha’Atzeret, the festival of the Harvest and the Festival of the Eighth (day of) Closure, a combined eight- day festival that would have been celebrated nearly two moons earlier were it not for the religious oppression by the Greco-Assyrians that forbade it.

    And so, to this day, we celebrate eight days of what we all Chanukah, literally “re-dedication”, commemorating our determination to not cancel Sukkot just because the appointed time had passed, but to celebrate it anyway— to remember that it is never too late. Never. In fact, so powerful was this determination, that the elders instructed other Jewish communities, outside of Israel, to celebrate a “second” Sukkot festival for eight days beginning the 25th of Kis’lev, the period when the Jewish people redid their temple rites of Sukkot, however belatedly (Second Book of Maccabees 1:10).

    Not to take away from the original Sukkot festival by focusing on a second one two months later, we decided to celebrate more the miracle of the tiny drop of oil we found when we retook the Temple and re-kindled the Sacred Menorah, a tiny drop that lasted eight days, long enough for us to process fresh olive oil and sanctify it for ritual use.

    Later teachers, in the first century B.C.E., chose to completely ignore the part of the miracle of Chanukah that had to do with military success. Instead, they focused on the miracle of the oil. They felt that while military action is at times a necessity, it must never be a preference, never a first choice, and certainly ought not be celebrated. “Not by might, and not by force,” did the Creator communicate to the Hebrew prophet Zechar’yah three centuries earlier, “but by my Spirit” (Zachariah 4:6).

    Instead of marching about with bows and arrows and flaming torches the Jewish people have for more that two thousand years commemorated this great event – made possible by a miraculous military victory – with gentle flames of hope and of peace. Military victories are great, but also tragic. Armies are necessary, but do not deserve celebration. On the contrary, war was despised. “I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land” (Hosea 2:18). The vision of the Hebrew scriptures was that swords would one day be beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks, and that eventually “no one would learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:-4). This at a time when Plato and Aristotle, on the other hand, were glorifying war (Politics 1:8). On the other hand, the Hebrew King David was disqualified from building the Temple of God because his hands had shed blood in battle (Second Chronicles 22:8). “If one sheds blood, “the Torah warns, “It is considered as if he has diminished the image of God” (Genesis 9:6). In fact, it was for this very reason that the altar of the ancient Jews was not to be constructed with the use of knives or swords, since these could also be used as weapons (Exodus 20:22). And even when the ancient Jews went about warring, compared to those around them they were considered even by their enemies as a compassionate folk (First Kings 20:31).

    What we do need to celebrate is possibility, the possibility of peaceful co-existence on this tiny, fragile planet. Chanukah is a reminder of this. Just when the nights are getting longer, and it is growing darker and darker, precisely at that time do we celebrate with light, with demonstrations of our belief that no matter how hopeless it seems, it isn’t. Like my teacher Rav Eliezer used to say: “When you are at the very edge, reach out for the Creator’s hand and take one more step.”

    Because it’s never too late. Never.

    Reply
  11. Wendy

    From Rabbi James Stone Goodman

    Raza De Hanukkah
    The Secret of Hanukkah
    In eight poems and a lullaby

    Lullaby:

    Neir li neir li
    Neir li dakik
    Ba Hanukkah
    Neiri ad-lik

    Ba Hanukkah
    Neiri ya-ir
    Ba Hanukkah
    Shirim a-shir (2X)

    C – F – C
    C – G – C
    Am – G – F
    Em – F – G – C

    On the first night

    We asked questions:

    What kind of light?
    Mai Hanukkah? [Shabbat 21b}
    What is Hanukkah?
    A miracle but which one? [Rashi]

    It hasn’t clarified yet.
    Backwards we are telling the story
    the prophet Elijah standing on a street corner –

    Fire, he said
    as well as light
    some specially created light

    or fire –
    We call Hanukkah
    the festival of lights

    Josephus did too –
    the kind of light
    that burns.

    On the second night

    the Chernobler Rebbe came
    dressed as an angel in Japanese embroidered silk.

    The Chernobler Rebbe opened:
    oil is wisdom
    poured over the head
    of the Priest King Messiah
    overflowing like precious oil on the head
    running down the beard of Aaron. [Ps.133:2]
    The pure finely-beaten, most excellent olive oil –
    the olive that releases its finest product when pressed.

    Smell this, said the Chernobler Rebbe,
    pressing his wrist to my nose
    another quality of oil
    the capacity to absorb.
    I smelled yasmina
    jasmine,

    When I make perfume the scent is absorbed into the oil –
    then distilled. Wisdom
    is absorbed from the world this way
    – both its beauty and its contaminants.

    Now, said the Chernobler Rebbe,
    one small vial of pure oil
    when fired up lights everything.
    Wisdom when it is tended burns pure
    burns long burns sure.

    We are all in the game –
    attaching to the pure
    resisting the contaminants lurking
    everywhere around us within us.

    Bind me to the purifications
    separate me from the contaminants –
    O God — a heart of purity create in me. [Ps.51:12]

    On the third night

    an angel came in the form
    of a master of Kabbalah
    he opened with
    Darkness IS Light –

    God separated the light from darkness
    called light day
    and darkness night
    And it was evening and it was morning
    day one.

    In the beginning, darkness and light one,
    a single seamless sourced good
    then the challenge
    subdue the dark
    illumine the good
    the fearful dialectic.

    Light from the luminous essence of darkness –
    this the Hanukkah light.

    Temple menorah lit by day to illumine the night
    Hanukkah menorah
    lit by night to reclaim dark –
    light from darkness itself

    the source of light.

    On the fourth night

    We remembered the opposing Greeks,
    who defiled all the oil except
    one small vial of the pure,
    uncorrupted oil
    shemen tahor
    one small vial that when fired up
    lit up the entire eight days.

    From our prayers –
    The miracle of the few
    Against the many,

    So it is with the quality of light
    Wisdom
    Light
    – when it is tended it burns pure

    From the holy Temple in Jerusalem
    We
    Lit up
    – the world.

    On the fifth night

    Rebbe Nachman appeared
    he spoke out of a thatch of black beard

    He told this story:
    a young man left home traveled to a faraway land
    where he learned the art of making menorahs.
    When he returned home he went to work.
    He worked alone covering the menorah with a large cloth
    – even the father had not seen it.

    When he was done, he asked his father –
    gather together the townspeople in the square.
    He unveiled his work
    – everyone was silent.
    Each one saw a defect
    – each a different defect.

    The father told his son,
    what one person praised another person cursed.
    That’s what I learned, said the son,
    each defect is in the eyes of the person who sees it.
    I fashioned a menorah entirely out of defects,
    I made the menorah out of flaws.
    Now I will begin its repair.

    Rebbe Nachman always giggled when he came to the end of a story.
    When you find a flaw, he said,
    you find your own flaw.

    On the sixth night

    a tarnished angel appeared

    We fired up the lights, stood staring into the fire.
    What’s the miracle?
    he asked us.

    Light victory power revenge clarity purity
    dedication –

    Afterwards, he asked for a ride to the Metro Link
    and maybe a couple of bucks to get downtown.

    What’s the miracle? I asked him back.
    Grateful, said the angel
    – the miracle is gratitude
    find that and you won’t need anything.

    You’ll breathe into the souls of your feet
    and live as long as you want to.

    On the seventh night

    We turned to the purity within,
    resisting the many contaminants
    Lev tahor bara li Elokim,
    a heart of purity create in me, O G*d [Ps. 51:12]
    we chanted.

    We located this wisdom in the language of soul,
    With tending, caretaking,
    midwifery, it requires our attention –

    Oh Hanukkah
    we fire up the quality of soul
    every year it strengthens
    this is the secret
    the raza of Hanukkah –

    Light up the wisdom within
    let it be brought into the world
    separate it from the contaminants
    care for it in the common
    and uncommon methods
    of soul tending.

    Begin now.

    On the eighth night

    We stared into the candles

    The Temple lit seven
    Hanukkah we light eight
    all natural cycles given in seven.

    Eight –
    surrounding the seven
    the extra measure set around nature
    beyond nature
    the eighth lamp
    light from darkness itself
    darkness as an aspect of light.

    It’s all light
    all over.

    james stone goodman
    united states of america

    Reply
  12. Aryae Post author

    A CHANNUKAH LETTER FROM REB SHLOMO ZT”L
    Moshav Meor Modiim, Kislev 5749
    Reprinted from Cong. Kehilath Jacob News

    Everybody knows that Chanukah is the culmination of the high holidays. We are accustomed to think that joy and bliss are the highest a human being can aspire to, but our holy rabbis teach us that light is even deeper. So after Simhas Torah, when we experience the greatest joy in the world, we come to Chanukah. Chanukah is the Festival of Light. Chanukah is when we initiate the Third Temple, which shall be rebuilt soon. It is the one week of Chanukah, when every Jewish home is a little bit of the Holy Temple, which gives us the strength to hold out until the Holy Temple will be here for always.

    It is possible to know every word of the Torah, but if the inside light of the Torah is not shining into you out of every word, you are still an outsider.

    Chanukah has two outstanding characteristics:

    On every other holiday you don’t need a house. On Chanukah you need a house to kindle light at the door. On Chanukah when I see someone else kindling, I also say a blessing. When do I know that I’m at home with the Torah? When do I know that the light of the Torah is really my own? If I blow my mind over everyone else’s good deed and I can’t control myself, I have to say a blessing over it.

    It is possible to live in the same house as your wife and children and be strangers to one another. On Chanukah every person in the house is kindling light; every night the light is becoming stronger and deeper and more. Our age is the age of strangers. We’re strangers in our own homes; we’re strangers in our own land; we’re strangers in our own religion.

    Let this Chanukah open the gates for all of us – the lights of Chanukah at the gates [are] to show [us] how holy everyone else is. Let this Chanukah give us the strength to bring light to the whole world, because people only hate each other when they have no home. So our light of Chanukah will show the whole world how deep life is — how deep it is to serve G-d.

    The holy Ishbitzer says the greatest blessing one Jew can give another is to feel at home with the Torah. So many of our generation are assimilated only because nobody made them feel at home with Yiddishkeit. You and I should be privileged to kindle light at the gate of everyone’s heart to make everyone feel at home.

    Love,
    Shlomo

    Reply
  13. Wendy

    Listen to the Flames
    by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

    If we look closely at the details of Chanukah – the Menorah, the history, the number of flames – they can reveal the nature of our soul.

    As the sun sets and the shadows of night descend, we kindle the Menorah creating light in the darkness. Listen carefully to the flames and they will tell you a story, a story that will empower you to live a more profound meaningful life, enabling you to rise up toward challenge and overcome difficulty. Sit near the flames and study them quietly.

    “The flame of God is the soul of a human being,” says the Torah. As flames warm and illuminate their environment, so too you can use your soul to infuse life with warmth and light. Unlike all other physical entities that are drawn earthward, the dancing flames flicker upward defying gravity. Likewise your soul, not satisfied with mere physical comforts, aspires up toward something beyond.

    Chanukah is not just about lighting up our own lives. By placing the Menorah in the window of your home or at your doorpost, you allow the light to radiate into the dark street, illuminating your surroundings. Chanukah reminds us of our ability and responsibility to effect the world around us and prompts us to shine light into the lives of others with daily acts of goodness and kindness. Just as a flame lights another without diminishing itself, so too by sharing yourself you become enhanced rather than diminished. Every day we must increase illumination of ourselves and our environment – each day adding another good deed, lighting an additional flame.

    Chanukah tells yet a deeper story, a story that penetrates the darker shadows of our lives. The Menorah shines a tunnel back through time to the aftermath of a great victory in which a small band of Jews defeated the might of the Greek Empire. In amongst the debris of the desecrated Temple the Maccabees searched ceaselessly until they found a single sealed cruse of oil that miraculously burnt for eight days. When you are defiled, when your inner Temple has been desecrated and there is no oil to be found, you have the power to reach deeper inside and discover light. The soul always remains intact like a “pilot light.” When you light your Menorah under such difficult circumstances, creating light in the darkest moment, that light can never be extinguished. The light that has dealt with challenge, that has transformed pain into growth, is a light that transcends nature and transforms darkness into light.

    This power to transform darkness must come from a place beyond the conventional. We therefore light eight candles, the mystical number of transcendence and infinity, one beyond the number seven that represents the natural cycle. In order to pierce darkness with light, you can’t just rely on the natural, you need to reach a deeper resource which is the eighth dimension.

    These elements of Chanukah – the eight flickering flames, the miracle of the oil, the light shining into the dark street – beckon us to connect to the power of our soul. Our soul rises like a flame toward that which transcends itself, not only repelling darkness as is the nature of all light, but transforming the darkness into light.

    Reply
  14. Aryae Post author

    Michael Kagen

    Here is a kavanah suggestion for lighting the hanukah candles this year.

    Let the first candle be you with your own light shining from within and glowing for the world to see.
    Let the second candle be your family and loved ones.
    Let the third candle be your community.
    Let the fourth candle be your street or district.
    Let the fifth candle be your village, town or city.
    Let the sixth candle be your country.
    Let the seventh candle be your people.
    Let the eighth candle be the entire world.

    So the light grows from the individual to the whole world and we know that we are connected at the base and that we are part of the whole and the whole is part of us. That what starts from one can grow to encompass all. That’s the miracle.

    And the Shammas that is lit every night? This is the Creator of all, the Holy One Blessed be She, that gives light and life, and guards over us at all times. As the Holy Menorah stood guard at the entrance of the Holy of Holies. And the six lamps all bowed towards the central lamp.

    And what was the desecration, the idol worship, that took place in the Temple? That is when a man-made statue was placed in the Holy of Holies. Which means that we put ourselves at the center, that it’s all about me, that we light a Menorah without the Shammas, that the Light from above was extinguished – almost.

    This is the message of deep ecology. Let your light spread and let us help heal the world.

    Blessings

    Michael,
    Jerusalem

    Reply
  15. Aryae Post author

    Reb Shlomo

    Transcribed by Reuven Goldfarb

    Shlomo teaching about Chanukah at Temple Beth Ami in Santa Rosa, 23 Kislev, 5741 / November 30, 1980

    You know, my sweetest friends — Listen, I’m sure the children wouldn’t mind if you tell them just to be a little bit quiet, without hurting their feelings. I’m sure they’ll be with it. It’s okay, it’s okay, just — Friends, let’s concentrate, okay?

    Everybody knows, Tuesday night is Chanukah, the Festival of Light. And, you know, sometimes it’s so obvious — you know, there’s the book, “Who is Who in Judaism,” you know? “Who is Who in the World,” right? Sometimes it’s so obvious who is real and who is not. For those who are not so real, they say, “Chanukah is a very unimportant holiday” — ‘cause it really is, and what’s so important about it, you know? Basically, on Chanukah you can do anything you want to. It’s not like Yom Kippur — you’re fasting, you go to shul. Chanukah, you can sell your herring. In the middle — in between one piece of herring and the other — you run to the window, you kindle a little light, so who cares, right? So it’s not important.

    But the truth is, the Holy Baal Shem Tov, the holy of holiest, told us that Chanukah is higher than the highest in the world. Yom Kippur is very special — Simchas Torah is special — it’s all beautiful. But how does it compare to Chanukah? How does it compare to what a person feels when you kindle light?

    Okay, now, sweetest friends, in a nutshell, I’d like to share with you what our holy rabbis teach us — what is light? What does it mean? Okay, I’m sure everyone has about ten million answers. Let me tell you the Torah from the holy Ishbitzer. I just want you, really, to open your hearts.

    You know, I can tell you something — something very holy and exalted, which you didn’t know before. And now you know it. So, you have an added [piece of] information. Imagine a person didn’t know that there is one G d. I meet this person. I explain to them, and I prove to them — there is one G d. “Oh,” they say, you know, “that’s very nice, very beautiful. Thank you very much. I didn’t know it.” Now they know.

    Or I’ll tell you something. Did you think the whole world — the way it is now — that’s the way it’s supposed to be? People cheating each other, killing each other, hating each other? Let me tell you that our great prophets prophesied that tomorrow morning there’ll be peace in the world. And you’ll say, “Oh, I didn’t know that. But it sounds good.” You know? “Thank you for telling me. Where can I get that book?” “Oh, it’s a dollar twenty-five.” “So do you have any second-hand, where I can get it for seventy-five cents?”

    Okay! What are they missing? What are they missing? They know the words. There’s no light behind it, right? Let me tell you what light is. Light is that which lifts you up beyond you. Beyond you. Suddenly I’m reaching somewhere, to a place I didn’t even know existed.

    You know, let’s put it this way. Imagine I didn’t know there was one G d, and suddenly somebody tells me, “There really is one G d!” So, gevaldt, am I reaching! Suddenly my soul expands two billion miles. Somewhere else. So, you know, sweetest friends, all the holidays, all our life is beautiful, but unless — unless there is light in it — you’re dead.

    You know, I always tell my friends, What do you think is happening in cemeteries? They have a committee — a cultural committee — they’re having lectures, they have all the dead people get together, and they exchange ideas, you know? Without hurting anybody’s feelings, if someone has a problem, he goes to a psychiatrist, right? Try one in the neighborhood, right?

    What are they missing? They’re dead, right? It doesn’t change them. Doesn’t lift them up to a higher place. You know what dead is? Can’t move, right? Always the same. I’m the same when I say hello; I’m the same when I say good-bye. I’m the same when I eat an apple, and I’m the same when I kiss my child. Always the same.

    You know what light is, sweetest friends? This is so precious. But now, one more step, friends. Light can only burn on pure oil. You know, the Maccabees came back, and they wanted to kindle G d’s light, and they realized, we need at least one drop of pure oil. Defiled oil — impure oil — doesn’t produce light. Yeah, at the window maybe, but not in the heart, not in the soul.

    I’m sure you share my feelings. Sometimes you hear a word from somebody, the same word you heard from a holy man yesterday — nothing happens to you. And the next time you hear the word you heard from somebody unholy — somebody holy — someone who’s operating on pure oil — and suddenly a great light is shining inside of you. Such a deep light. So precious, so holy.

    And you know, sweetest friends, do you know where we can reach? Does any of us know how high and how deep we can reach? Infinite, right? We’re [made] in G d’s image. You know what’s so special about the light of Chanukah? The Talmud says that basically G d’s light does not get that close to this world. There must be at least a little in-between of ten inches. {Ten tefachim (handbreadths). Shlomo is choosing not to get too technical here.} Chanukah, it goes all the way to the ground. You know what that means? All year long, without light, I understand “holy” is cute, sweet, beautiful, but let’s face it — it doesn’t reach down to this world, right? Really, let’s face it. Do you really think you can sell herring and be holy? Do you really think you can be a stockbroker and be honest? Let’s face it. You can’t. You know why you can’t? Cuz you have no light. If you have light? The lowest place [can be made holy].

    And now, sweetest friends, listen to me. All of us know a lot of holy words. You know why it doesn’t change us? Because we have this little in-between. I say, “You know, don’t get too deep into me. Leave me a little space where I keep my unholy stuff. You know, really. Don’t overdo it.” So I never get anyplace. I never change. Chanukah is that moment when G d’s light reaches me in the lowest, lowest places in the world. The lowest.

    And you know, friends, what’s so beautiful about it? And here I want you to open your hearts. Do you think G d wants you to be somebody else? Is there really such a thing as “low”? There is no such a thing. It is only because I had no light I thought there was high and there was low. Until the light of Chanukah reached me, I understood when I’m standing in the synagogue, I’m praying, I’m high. When I sell herring, I’m low. [On] Chanukah, I realize — what’s wrong with selling herring? It’s G d’s world, right? I can be the highest when I’m selling herring. Do you think I’m only close to G d when I yell “HaShem Echad!”? G d is one? A person can come into my store and buy herring, and I give him change from a dollar, but the way I give it that person — that person knows there is one G d.

    So Chanukah is so good — so good. It’s just the highest there is. And just one more thing, sweetest friends. You know what’s wrong with the world? Any person who has a little bit light in his heart, just a little bit light — they always close the doors on you. I say, “Listen, face it. You are not as high as I am. I have a lot of light, but you can stay outside,” right? “I mean, who are you? I mean, really. Let’s face it. I cannot tell you all the great mysteries of the world, of the Bible — I mean, really, who do you think you are? You have no titles — “ And whatever it is.

    The holiness of Chanukah is that I’m putting the light right at the door of my house. Because if I have light, I’m just waiting for you, please, please come to my house.

    One more thing, friends. G d’s light burns forever. G d’s light burns forever. Don’t worry. Sometimes we think the world is going to the dogs, ‘cause tomorrow morning nothing will be left. We don’t have to worry. It looks to you like the oil is just enough for one night. What am I going to do the rest of the week? You don’t have to worry. G d’s light is burning forever! If you have enough courage to kindle G d’s light for one night, I swear to you it’ll last forever. It’ll last forever.

    Someone comes to you and he says, “Would you like to keep Shabbos?” You’ll say, “Yeh, this Shabbos it so happens that I have time. But, really, next Shabbos, I can’t.” You just keep one Shabbos. But that Shabbos will burn inside of you until you keep the next Shabbos.

    Someone will tell you, you know, “It’s very bad to get angry.” So, you say, “Today I just came back from my vacation in the Bahamas, and I am relaxed. Today I can manage not to get angry, but really, tomorrow, when I’m back in my business, don’t tell me stories about ‘not getting angry’ — you cannot. You gotta yell at your secretary — you gotta yell at everyone; otherwise nothing is ever done.” According to them, the way G d created the word, first He yelled — and then He created the world. ‘Cause otherwise nothing would have been done, right?

    So you tell me you can just not be angry for one day. Okay. You start. You start for one day, for one minute, and G d says, “I promise you — “ Can I ask you why you’re laughing? [Man he addressed answers:] “I was thinking to myself, when you said you were high selling fish, it’s the idea that you did something that you liked…so much and it made you enjoy life so much. I was talking to a dealer in Puerto Rico — “ [Shlomo interjects:] “He’s saying good stuff, this man. Okay, let’s hear it.” [Man resumes speaking:] “I was talking to a dealer in Puerto Rico, and I said, ‘What a job you have — you get to deal blackjack all day long.’ He said, ‘Not me. If you do it for a living it’s just work.’ And you were describing just how high you were, just on life.” [Shlomo says:] “How about becoming partners with me, brother?” [Man responds:] “I didn’t hear.” [Shlomo repeats himself:] “I said, how about becoming partners with me and selling herring?” [Man replies:] “Not a bad idea.”

    [Shlomo strums his guitar and launches into another song.]

    — Recorded by Reuven Goldfarb, and subsequently transcribed by him on the 29th anniversary of the event, in honor of Juliet Lowenthal, z”l, his wife Yehudit’s mother, and Eliana Devorah, his granddaughter. The two honorees share the same Hebrew birthday, 23 Kislev, the day this recording was made, though they were born 95 years apart. Eliana’s Daddy, Yeshayah Simcha, was then 2 ½ years old, and quite vocally present. Her uncle Elishama Hesed was also present, in utero. Thanks are due, of course, to Jerry and Leah Strauss, who organized Shlomo’s visit to Santa Rosa.

    Reply
  16. Wendy

    From Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan
    The First Book of Maccabees was written about 100 BCE, not long after the first Chanukah was celebrated. It’s an embarrassingly political book, celebrating the power of the Maccabean family, the Hasmonean (Chashmona’i) dynasty.

    The book begins by praising the power of Alexander the Great, who spread the best of Greek culture through the ancient Mediterranean region by building schools and libraries. But Antiochus, a minor king of Hellenized Syria, tried to spread Greek culture using coercion and violence. The Judeans, led by the Maccabees, resisted successfully. They restored the Temple, and crowned the leaders of the resistance as their kings. This is the story line of the book. It does not include the miracle of the oil. That part of the story was first told hundreds of years later in the Talmud.

    The animal stars of the First Book of Maccabees are the elephants. Not just any elephants. Gigantic, mythical, monstrous elephants, trained in battle, wearing wooden towers on their backs, carrying thirty-two soldiers each. Exactly the elephants you saw in Lord of the Rings. Because the designers in the Lord of the Rings took their design straight out of the First Book of Maccabees, chapter 6, verse 37.

    According to the First Book of Maccabees, Antiochus’ army had one hundred and twenty of these living tanks, each escorted by 1,000 infantrymen and 500 cavalry. One brave Jewish soldier named Eleazar Savaran ran underneath an elephant, stuck a spear in, and killed it. The elephant collapsed on him, he died, and the rest of the Jewish army ran away in terror.

    Did these gigantic elephant warriors really exist? Of course not. They are fantastic literary images that make the battle story more exciting. And (of course) they are metaphorical hints about the nature of the miracle of Chanukah.

    So let’s explore what the metaphor of an elephant might mean in Jewish literature – specifically, in the Talmud.

    Chazal, our Talmudic sages, had three strong opinions about elephants. Elephants are really smart, really large, and really strange.

    If you’re thinking along with me, you’re already interpreting the meaning of the elephants at the center of battle. They represent Antiochus’ army: really large, commanded by really smart generals, using really unusual tactics. But the Maccabees miraculously defeated them. (“Stronger and smarter than an elephant!” – that’s the Maccabean slogan.)

    Let’s look a little more deeply into the three Talmudic opinions about elephants: smart, tall, and strange.

    Chazal recognize that an elephant is smart enough to serve as a courier. So they ask, “Can a trained elephant deliver an item of symbolic significance?” Some say that a reliable elephant can be trusted to find its destination. But others explain that when the elephant arrives, it will not be able to explain the meaning of the item. So chazal conclude, if the sender has let the recipient know in advance what he or she is receiving, the item may be delivered by an elephant.

    Meaning: an elephant may be amazingly smart, but it is not part of our society, it does not speak Hebrew or Aramaic, and it does not think in our symbol system.

    Chazal recognize that an elephant is tall enough to serve as the wall of a sukkah. So they ask, “Can you use an elephant for the wall of your sukkah?” No, they answer, because it might walk away. But what if you tie it up, or tie it down? Well, no. It won’t walk away, but it might die.

    Meaning: An elephant may be amazingly tall, and thus it may be useful for all kinds of odd jobs. But we do not get to use the elephant, because it has not consented to be part of our project.

    Maybe the elephants represent Antiochus’ soldiers. They do not buy into Antiochus’ project of forced cultural assimilation. And without commitment to the cause, they cannot support the building of an empire. To build a society, you need love and commitment – which the Maccabees have, at least in their own opinion.

    But there’s more.

    Chazal say: when we are lucky enough to see an elephant we should bless God, and say: Blessed is the One who varies the creatures – or, in Hebrew, Baruch mishaneh et haberiyot.”

    The Hebrew verb mishaneh is related to the noun shinui, which means change.

    Maybe, in the book of Maccabees, elephants represent faith and hope. The Judean soldiers saw how difficult it was to challenge a living tank, and they ran away in fear. But later, when they gathered to debrief the battle, they analyzed the symbolic power of the elephants said, “God, you introduce change! We do have the courage to continue.”

    The Hebrew word for elephant is pil. Chazal said, “If you see a pil, an elephant, in your dream, then pela’aot, wonders, will manifest in your life.” And that’s what happened to the Maccabees. In the crazy, chaotic, nightmare of battle they saw elephants. At first, the elephants seemed to be terrible a symbol – and in the end, they announced a pelah, a wonder, and a nes, a miracle.

    We all know how amazing elephants are. They are social, gentle, and loyal, open to friendship across species. They speak a language we can’t hear. And their survival is endangered. But my point today isn’t about elephants.

    It’s about Chanukah, and its messages of hope.

    Sometimes we encounter challenges that are as great as a giant beast. We try to meet them, and they collapse on top of us. We run in fear, because we are at the end of our resources. And sometimes it seems that we are truly defeated.

    But with time, and reflection, and love, and commitment, and support from someone who buys into the goal, and faith that things can be different, we can heal and arise and move forwards.

    Even though this does not always seem true. Sometimes things seem really dark. At those times, if a friend dares to say, “You’ll get through this…it just takes time,” we may feel as if they’re the beast we should skewer from below. You know this experience. But if we read the same message in a book, we are more likely to let it seep slowly into our consciousness.

    That’s the hint whispered in a dream, the secret miraculous power, of the elephants of Chanukah. That’s the hidden treat in the embarrassingly political First Book of Maccabees: The reminder that we can go beyond the end of our resources.

    It’s the same teaching offered by the miracle of the lights – enough oil for one day burns for eight. But it is older, more subtle, and perhaps – because it comes through an animal — even more alive.

    You may remember Perek Shira, the medieval text in which every animal is assigned a verse of praise in accordance with its spiritual nature. In Perek Shira, the elephant sings, Ma Gadlu Ma’asecha Yah, Mi’od amku machshevotecha. How great are your deeds, God, how deep and subtle are your thoughts.

    Chag sameach.

    — Laura Duhan Kaplan, 2010

    Reply
  17. Wendy

    From Rabbi Gershon Winkler 2010

    Pruning, Swooning and Fine-Tuning
    A Chanukah Teaching from Gershon

    A long time ago, we had a very holy Temple in Jerusalem. And it was destroyed by our enemies. And it was a very tragic thing, and a very good thing. About 300 years later, after we had rebuilt a Second Temple, it was desecrated by the Greco-Assyrians. It was a very tragic thing, and a very good thing. This is the Jewish way of seeing things. It is maddening, paradoxical, confounding, contradictory, and totally sound.

    The Psalm assigned for recitation on Chanukah, which commemorates the redidication of our Temple following its desecration by the Greco-Assyrians, is Psalm 30. It opens up with the word מזמור, mi’zmor which means, “Let it be sung.” The 16th-century Kabbalah master, Rav Yehoshua ben Avraham, points out that it also means, “Let it be cut” as in pruning: ” You shall תזמור tiz’mor [prune] your vinyards” (Leviticus 25:3). The next words in this Psalm, are: ” I will raise you up high in praise because דילתנו dee’lee’ta’nee [you have lifted me up].” Dee’lee’ta’nee, notes Rav Yehoshua, can also mean “You have tread me down from the word דל dal, which translates as “Downtrodden.” Sometimes you are moved to lift up your voice in song because the branches of your soul have been pruned, thus enabling you to feel lighter and uplifted. “And the lesson from all of this,” he writes, “is that even the destruction of the Holy Temple can be viewed as a good thing, for in essence it opens up the possibility for the light to illuminate even brighter than ever before. And therefore, the opening of this Psalm can be read also as ‘I will raise you up high in praise because you have trodden me down!’… as the very destruction of my Temple brings me to the healing of my soul, as the Psalm states next– ‘I cried out to you, and you healed me. O, My Pillar! You raised up my soul from the Abyss’, meaning: By virtue of the very destruction that befell me, my soul has been raised up from out of the Abyss and healed. And finally, the Psalm adds, ‘And you did not allow my adversaries to rejoice in my downfall’ [for indeed, all those empires who sought our destruction, never lasted long enough to revel in the success of their actions– because it wasn’t about that, it was about spiritual healing for us]” (Sh’lah: Sefer Bereisheet, Parashat Vayeshev, Miketz, Vayigash, Torah Ohr, Ch.15).

    Now we understand more clearly what the ancient rabbis meant when they declared: “If the youth say ‘Build up the Temple,’ do not listen to them. If the elders say: ‘Tear down the Temple,’ obey them” (Talmud Bav’li, Tosefta Avodah Zarah, Ch.1). Chanukah was one of those times. The soul of our people had atrophied, the embers of our spirits were dying, the body of the nation had grown weak, and its immune system failed sufficiently for external forces to invade and infect it. We then took some impressive steps to ward off the spread of the disease, rid ourselves of the infection, and re-commit to life, to our tradition, to the joy of being. We quickly recalled the warning of Moses more than a thousand years earlier, that our downfall would occur not because we didn’t do our thing, but because we didn’t do our thing with joy (Deuteronomy 28:47). With joy. Joy implies conciousness. Joy implies heart. Our heart wasn’t in it. And we took it all so seriously and zealously that we left the joy of it behind and developed rote patterns of exactness and rigidity. We stood on ceremony so heavily that we ended up crushing it. And thus did life respond in kind, measure for measure, מדה כנגד מדה midah k’negged midah– or Karma.

    This is an important lesson of Chanukah. It is a time for redidication, which is what the word חנוכה chanukah means: Dedication– seeing something from a fresh perspective, moving out of the super-glue effects of patterns, of old ways of being, seeing and knowing, and kindling a new flame every day, not in denial of what was yesterday, but along with the flames of personal renewal kindled the day before, the year before, the paradigm before, building one atop the other until all eight are radiating– eight, symbolic of the removal of the foreskin, of the layer that veils our personal truth in its most bare, most vulnerable and most authentic state.

    And so we kindle flame by flame every night during this darkest time of the year, each light in turn illuminating more and more of the darkened, unattended spaces in our hearts. As the Psalm continues: “For I might go to sleep weeping; but in the morning I shall awake in joyful song… for you transform my grief into my dance.”

    So may it be. Always. That what we sow in tears we will reap in joy (Pslams 126:5).

    A Blessed Chanukah to All!

    Reply
  18. Wendy

    From Rav DovBer Pinson

    Chanukah: Of Lights & Man

    Lights seem to speak to us in a very deep way, particularly those gentle lights that dance atop of candles. There are few visuals that are as warming to us as the sight of a burning flame, a pure simple flame luminous and ethereal.

    To the mind, lights and festivities also seem to go together. Lights are deemed the perfect vehicle to express joy—a firework display at a festive occasion is but one example, as is the lighting of candles or the hanging of colorful bulbs at a birthday party or any other joyful event.

    Within a Jewish context, every Shabbat, holiday or other special occasion demands the lighting of the candles. As the day is about to begin, at the moment immediately preceeding the beginning of the auspicious and dedicated day, the tradition is to light a candle. More precisely, the Shabbat candles are lit for the purpose of kavod – honor, to pay tribute to the day, and also for the purpose of oneg – pleasure, so that we eat our Shabbat meal in the pleasing glow of light and not stumble in the darkness. On Yom Tov, we have the additional advantage of it being a day of simcha, a day of joy.

    The oddity of all of this is that the candles of Chanukah are not meant to be used for our personal pleasure whatsoever. It’s quite clearly stated that one may only gaze at the lights and not use them for any other purpose. In fact, another light or candle must be lit to ensure that the room is lit even without the light of the Menorah.

    The intensity of these lights are not meant to be a channel for something else, no matter how lofty that purpose may be. They are not intended as a means, but are there as an end unto themselves.

    “The soul of man is a lamp of G-d” (Proverbs 20:27). The soul is our higher self. Our soul is the self of our potential and possibility, the part of us that stands above ego, selfishness, aggression and resentment. The soul is the background of our being, the light that masters our thoughts, emotions and actions, and essentially the whole of life. It is not something we posses, rather it is who we are, it does not belong to us, it is us.
    And yet we have the ability to eclipse the light of our soul, and use its reverberating power to destroy and wreck havoc. Light can be warming and bring comfort, but it can also be the source of much destruction and devastation. We can harness our internal light to bring love and joy, but the converse is also true.

    Thirty six, the mystical and mysterious number, is the amount of times the word light appears throughout the Torah. After the incident in the Garden of Eden, God asks Adam “ayeka?” (where are you?), not merely to be polite, and show the way we should enter a conversation. The question is essentially, “where are you?” What have you done? It is a question that has been asked and re-asked of every one of us throughout time. The inner voice within challenging us once in a while and questioning, “Where are you?” What are your priorities? And what do you want out of life? Are you living up to your potential?

    Midrashic sources write that the numeric value of the word ayeka is thirty-six. The question is then more pointedly: “where are you?” “What have you done with your light?” The Hebrew word sapir, as in the English derived term sapphire, refers to light, a stone of light. The word sipur – story is rooted in the word sapir. And so the question of ayeka is a question of, what is your story? What kind of tale are you weaving? Are you bringing warmth and joy, are you illuminating and bringing light, or have you forgotten your essentiality and are writing a story not worth repeating? This echoing sound of ayeka is a question, but more importantly a prodding, to be more, to live up to our potential.

    These are the lights, our lights, that gently whisper to us to turn aside, refocus, and reengage our attention from the overwhelming bombardment of the everything and take notice of what is right here, who we are, and what we can be, allowing us to glimpse inwards to a place deep within us, and rediscover that which has always been there.

    Reply
  19. Wendy

    From Rabbi Gershon Winkler

    MATAT’RON AND THE UNTOLD

    MYSTERY OF CHANUKAH

    A Teaching from Gershon…

    In the Jewish mystical tradition, Chanukah belongs to a period older than itself by close to 5,000 years, and refers to the great mystical master Chanoch, or Enoch, famous for being taken up into the Heavens alive (Genesis 5:24). Before this occurs, Chanoch is described as “walking God” (literal reading of the Hebrew). It is sort of like he gives God a guided tour of the Creation Manifested, and God in turn gives Chanoch a guided tour of Creation in Divine Thought until the two merge as one and Chanoch is taken up alive to become Matat’ron מטטרון , the highest of the angels (Zohar, Vol. 1, folio 27a and Vol. 3, folio 283a).

    Chanoch is recorded as “walking God” twice (Genesis 5:22 and 24). He takes God on a tour of the darkness of the world and of the lightness of the world, of the positive and of the negative, of the hatred and of the love, of the sadness of the world and of the joyfulness of the world. And the more they walk together, the more the constricted pathways to Eden begin to loosen their tightness for Chanoch, to the point that he eventually finds himself in the primeval arena of Eden itself, the very cauldron of Genesis, the very Thought of God. And there, in turn, the angels impart to him wisdom from beyond the beyond and from within the within (Tosefot L’Zohar, Vol. 2, folio 277a).

    At the beginning of Beginning, Genesis opens up with בראשיתberei’sheet, which etymologically breaks down to two words: Bara בראand Sheet שית. בראmeans “Created”, or “Externalized”. שית means “Garment”. Creation is then described in the Torah as the drama of God moving Itself beyond Itself, externalizing an aspect of Its Inner Essence to become the Embodiment of Genesis, the Mantle of Creation, the Divine Space within which the unfolding of all would be enabled. As is written: “You enrobed Yourself in splendor and majesty; donned Light like a mantle” (Psalms 104:1-2).

    This great Divine Light, however, slowly began to ebb as the world began to fall apart and humanity started ripping at the seams (Genesis 6:6). And the angels rolled their eyes and restrained themselves from saying to God: “See? We told you so. We warned you to leave well enough alone and not create Humans” (Midrash Bereisheet Rabbah 8:6). But lo and behold! In the arena where only angels can flourish, walked now a mortal, a man named Chanoch, who was gradually becoming enrobed in the very Light that was slip-sliding away from Creation. Here now walked a Human, elevating hope and possibility, and embodying all that was Divine, like the very angels who had once contested his existence altogether. And the Light returned to the world and remained to this day. For it is said that Chanoch, who is now Matat’ron, swoops down upon our world now and then to rekindle our dying hopes and illuminate the dimness of our long-forgotten dreams and visions of a better world. In the words of the Zohar, Chanoch – as Matat’ron — softens things for us when the world draws upon itself too much Divine Judgment (Tosefot L’Zohar, Vol. 2, folio 277b).

    He is Chanoch. He is Chanoch, the angelic force responsible for our world. He is חנוכ to whose name is added the letter ה which symbolizes this world (Talmud Bav’li, Menachot 29b), thus transforming his fuller name to חנוכה Chanukah (16th-century Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Avraham in Sefer Ha’Sh’LaH, Ha’ga’ho’t L’sefer B’reisheet, Va’yeshev, Miketz, Vayigash, Torah Ohr, Ch. 12 – Menorah). And so, every year when we approach the Winter Solstice, the period of ever-increasing darkness and ever-ebbing light, we draw from the inspiration of Chanoch, the kindler of Divine Light in the world, and we kindle our menorahs with ever-increasing flames as we scale the fence of Darkness back into Light on the other side of the Solstice. After all, it was Chanoch, as Matat’ron, who showed Moses the image by which he was to sculpt the original Menorah in the desert (Tikunei Zohar, folio 119b).

    A joyful, meaningful, enlightening Chanukah to all…

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  20. Wendy

    From Rabbi Miriam Maron

    חנוכהChanukahTeaching
    from Rabbi Miriam Maron
    © 2011 Miriam Maron

    On Chanukah, let us not forget that the original Menorah which we built in the desert about 3300 years ago, was a central column with six branches protruding outward from it, three on either side of the column. From the teachings of the sixteenth-century Rabbi Isaac Luria, we learn that the central flame represents the Shabbat. The three branches on one side of the central column represent the three days preceding the Shabbat, namely Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, while the three branches on the other side of the central column represent the three days following the Shabbat. The three days preceding the Shabbat are referred to in the Talmud as מקמי שבתאmikamei shab’ta, “the rising of the Sabbath”, and the three days following the Shabbat are referred to as אחר שבתאachar shab’ta, “after the Sabbath” (Talmud Bav’li, Pesachim 106a). Basically, then, the central point of the Menorah represents the Shabbat, from whose radiance of spirit all the other days of the week are nurtured. One ought therefore to prepare oneself for the Shabbat during the three days prior to the Shabbat (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), and celebrate the residual light of the Shabbat during the three days following the Shabbat (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday).

    The three branches on either side of the Menorah are then symbolic of the waxing and waning of our soul’s approach toward and departing from the Light of Shabbat. On Wednesday, we begin the approach by tuning into the body aspect of our soul, the נפשnefesh. On Thursday, we continue the approach by tuning into the emotive aspect of our soul, the רוחru’ach. Then, on Friday, we tune into the consciousness aspect of our soul, the נשמהneshamah. And by Shabbat, we become unified with the She’chee’nah, the Central Column by which The All is unified with all. After Shabbat, on Sunday, we depart, tuning back into neshamah. On Monday, we tune back into ru’ach. By Tuesday, we are back in nefesh mode. On another level, this cycle also mimics the Kabbalistic take on the unfolding of Creation through the Four Worlds, or phases: on Wednesday we move through the World of ah’see’yah, the realm of manifestation; on Thursday we move through the World of yetsirah, the realm of imagery; on Friday we move through the World of be’ree’yah, the realm of conceptualization. By Shabbat, we arrive in the World of atzee’lut, the realm of emanation. Conversely, on Sunday we move through the realm of be’ree’yah; on Monday through the realm of yetsirah; and on Tuesday we are back in the realm of ah’see’yah (16th-century Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Avraham in Sefer Ha’Sh’LaH, Mesechet Chulin, Perek Torah Ohr, Ch. 53).

    Like the Menorah, there are three protruding branches on either side of the human body as well, each pair – from bottom up – longer than the one above it, the legs longer than the arms above them, and the arms longer than the ears above them. And the seventh branch is the head, from which all the other branches are lit, are influenced and empowered (16th-century Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Avraham in Sefer Ha’Sh’LaH, Sha’ar Ha’O’ti’o’t – O’t Kuf, Kedushah, Ch. 5).

    So when we light our Menorah on Chanukah, commemorating the rekindling of hope in a dark period of our history, let us rekindle as well the lesson, the symbolism of the original Menorah, and bring blessings to each day of the week, every day of our lives throughout the year.

    A concluding teaching about the word Cha’NU’KaH:

    חCha the letter ח whose numerical equivalent, or Gemmatria, is 8 as in the miracle of the little drop of oil which lasted for 8 days.

    נוNU comprised of the letters נnun and wahv ו, whose combined numerical equivalent is 56, which, in turn, represents the 8 days of the miraculous flames ablaze on the 7 branches of the Temple Menorah (8 x 7 = 56).

    כהKaH comprised of the letters כchahf and הhay, whose combined numerical equivalent is 25, the date on which the miracle of Chanukah began: the 25th Day of the Moon of Kis’lev (Source: 16th-century Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Avraham in Sefer Ha’Sh’LaH, Ha’ga’ho’t L’sefer B’reisheet, Va’yeshev, Miketz, Vayigash, Torah Ohr, Ch. 12 – Menorah).

    A JOYFUL, MEANINGFUL CHANUKAH TO ALL!!

    RABBI MIRIAM

    Reply
  21. Wendy

    From Rabbi Gershon Winkler

    Eight.

    Why Chanukah is neither a festival of lights or of oil.

    A Teaching from Gershon…

    Quick question: If Chanukah supposedly commemorates the teeny-tiny drop of oil that enabled the Menorah of the ancient Temple to burn for eight days, why don’t we celebrate oil? Why do we celebrate Chanukah as a festival of lights instead of a festival of oil? I mean, maybe just have eight days of oil wrestling, or eight days of castor oil, or, instead of a Menorah, display eight cans of WD-40 on our window sills, or something like that. What does the ritual of kindling flames on the Chanukah Menorah have to do with a miracle that had nothing to do with light and everything to do with oil? And why Eight?

    The first question is resolved by the second question.

    In ancient Jewish tradition, eight represents finality of commitment. We can make commitments to do this or that, but until we actually lock ourselves into the manifestation of that commitment, it remains in limbo, it remains an “Almost, but not quite,” like a readied clump of dough that is shaped like a challah but not yet baked, like a building that has been assembled but is not yet ready to be lived in. The eighth phase of any unfolding represents not even its finale or climax, but more so beyond its finale or climax, meaning that the eighth phase is about activation. Sort of like the credit card you just got in the mail. It looks great and will work in any ATM machine and is accepted at all restaurants, but it will do you absolutely no good until you participate in its unfolding, until you personally go through the motions of activating it.

    For example, in the Hebrew creation story, God completes Creation in the seventh cycle, but Creation does not actually take until the eighth phase and on. In the words of the Torah: “And Elo’heem blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, for in it did [Elo’heem] settle back from all of [Elo’heem’s] work that Elo’heem had created לעשות — to do” (Genesis 2:3). The wording “created to do” clearly implies that the finale of God’s direct “hands-on” participation in primordial creation included the gifting to Creation of the capacity to participate in its own unfolding. And this sacred occurrence follows the seven phases of Genesis, beginning with an eighth cycle. This is why, after telling you the whole story of the sequence of Creation in Chapter One of Genesis, the Torah then breaks the news that actually nothing had happened yet – all of it waiting for the Human to activate it: “And it came to pass that there was no cable or internet, because God had not yet subscribed, and the Human had not yet come around to activate it” (Genesis 2:5-6).

    This concept is then played out across the length and breadth of the Tenakh, the Hebraic scriptures. Eight consistently represents the bridging of one series of like phases to a whole new level of realization. Thus, the משכן Mish’kan, the sacred sanctuary space that the Hebrews constructed in the desert some 3,300 years ago, was not activated until “the eighth day.” Its assembly had already been completed, but its activation did not occur until the eighth day of its dedication (Midrash Sif’ra, Shemini, No. 14). Likewise, the first initiation of the priesthood, of the כהניםko’hanim, also involved a seven-day ritual, with the eighth day being the actual activation of the initiation (Leviticus 8:33-9:1). Also, the sacrificial rites upon the altar disqualified any animal not at least eight days old: “Seven days, it shall be with its mother, and on the eighth day…it shall be acceptable as an offering” (Exodus 22:29 and Leviticus 22:27). The healing rites of the leper also took seven days, yet the actual purification did not take effect until the eighth day (Leviticus 14:8-23).

    The Torah also introduces the eighth day of Sukkot, of the harvest ritual, as “A festival of עצרתatzeret, of closure, dedicated to you” (Numbers 29:35) – not to God, but to us, to Creation, in honor of Creation’s unique selfhood. The Zohar goes deeper and interprets atzeret to imply כנישתאk’neesh’ta, which means “gathering” – that the eighth day is a phase of “gathering in the blessings that flow from the Above [i.e., the Beyond]” (Zohar, Vol. 1, folio 64a).

    Eight, then, represents Beyond-ness, beyond the givens of life; the invitation to become active participants in perpetuity by crossing the line between what is, and what beckons to happen beyond it.

    “This is why the ברית מילה Brit Milah [ritual circumcision] happens on the eighth day,” taught the 16th-century Kabbalist, Rabbi Yehudah Loew of Prague, “for all that is under the influence of Nature is associated with the number seven since Nature was created in seven cycles. And thus, whatever is beyond Nature is associated with the number eight. Therefore, Brit Milah, which is beyond Nature – as in Nature a man is born uncircumcised — takes place on the eighth day” (MaHaRaL in Chidushei Aggadot, Vol. 1, folio 5 – mesechet shabbat). In other words, the removal of the foreskin is symbolic of moving beyond the constraints of Nature and dedicating the physical impulses to the One Who Created Nature, to begin with, in the hopes that like consciousness will eventually follow.

    Eight is then representative of what you and I dare to do in the world that is out of the ordinary, beyond the constraints of the laws of the universe. The laws of the universe state unequivocally that a teeny-tiny drop of olive oil will not suffice to keep a flame going for more than fifteen minutes, so why bother? Why bother lighting a short-lived flame from one miniscule drop of consecrated oil? Just leave well enough alone and start from scratch.

    Yet, you chose to kindle it anyway, knowing full well that it would take at least a week to fetch enough olives, compress them for their oil, process that oil, render it flammable, and consecrate it for Temple use. You defied the finite boundaries of the Realm of Seven and dared traverse the Realm of Eight. You rekindled the ebbing life force of your people and its near-obliterated tradition. You dared stand up against an empire tenfold larger and more powerful and better equipped militarily than your handful of rookie warrior wannabees and their duct-taped slingshots.

    The miracles that resulted — your victory over the mighty Greco-Assyrian armies, and the teeny-tiny-itsy-bitsy drop of oil lasting long enough for a fresh supply of kindling oil to be delivered – had to do neither with oil nor with fire, but with your bold, audacious act of kindling, of making happen what by the Laws of Nature ought not to have happened, of turning darkness into light, resignation into hope, tragedy into celebration.

    Having won back our freedom to practice our traditions, the elders decided to celebrate the most recent festival which we had been forbidden to celebrate: Sukkot and Sh’mee’nee Chag Ha’Atzeret, the Festival of the Harvest and the Festival of the Eighth [day of] Closure, a combined eight-day festival that would have been celebrated nearly two moons earlier were it not for the religious oppression by the Greco-Assyrians who forbade it (Second Book of Maccabees 1:10).

    And so we kindle eight lights for eight days. Eight representing transcendence, beyondness, chutzpah, miracle – Eight representing beyond seven, as seven represents the ordinary, the known, the revealed world that was created in cycles of Seven, while Eight represents taking it all one bold step further.

    With the lighting of each flame, every day our menorahs glowing brighter and brighter, we fan the sparks of courage and kindle the flames of the gift of selfhood and dignity modeled by the bold action and conviction of women and men and children in the Land of Israel some 2,200 years ago. By the eighth night, we are fully ablaze with their daring souls burning fiercely in each our hearts, moving us beyond our self-perceived limitations. For Eight moves us beyond the boundaries set for us by our culture, religion, society, and way beyond even our own self-assumed capacities and self-limited possibilities into the realm of the Sacred Eight, the place of transcendence. The place of Healing, and yes, the place of Miracle.

    So when you light the flames of your Menorah, remember that it isn’t so much the oil, or the lights, as it is the act of kindling, of bringing forth something from out of nothing. And may that be a blessing in your own personal life, to call forth the impossible from the cyclic spin of the holy Seven into the unbridled dance of the holy Eight.

    And you don’t have to be Jewish to do that sort of kindling.

    Reply
  22. Wendy

    From Rabbi David Zaslow

    David Zaslow
    Light: here is a deeper understanding: The 7th and 8th nights of Hanukkah are on the new moon, meaning they are the darkest days of the year. Not necessarily the shortest, unless they fall on 12/21 and 12/22, but the darkest. So we say that with the menorah we are adding light into the darkness. But that’s not really what light is about. When the Holy said “yehi ohr” we translate it as “let their be light,” but it would be better to say “let light be.” in other word, Hashem doesn’t have to create light, but simply reveal the light that is already there. So tonight don’t light your candles, but think of your action as releasing the light that is already there. You are the holy agent to simply release that light.

    Now, let’s kick it up a notch. In the deepest sense we often think of light like we think of matter…as a kind of thing, an ethereal thing. But it is the most non-thing. Light is the profound energy that permits us to see through the darkness. It does not eliminate the darkness. Choshech is always there, as the underpinning of everything. Darkness is beautiful, but gets a bad rap in poor poetry and song lyrics. It is so holy that it just is…in Genesis 1 it is the pre-condition for creation. It does not have to be created….”darkness was upon the face of the deep…” In other words darkness just is, the most pure isness there is. So light is not a thing. If it were a thing it would block the darkness.

    Rather the light is G-d’s formula for giving us x-ray vision, the ability to see through the darkness. Everything I want to say about the light will come out making it into a thing. So we have to change our thinking. Light is the ultimate revealing agent. Tonight on the darkest night of the year we will light seven candles. Tonight is the seventh day of the week. The Shabbat of Hanukkah gets an extra measure of kedushah, holiness. So tonight let’s not add light to the darkness when we bring the menorahs to the window. Let’s envision the light and dark at their wedding. We have the honor to wed the light to its partner, the darkness.

    Let’s not add light to the darkness as if darkness somehow needs to be dispelled because it is bad. It is like Esau, it just needs it’s brother Jacob to be complete. And Jacob cannot be Israel without his brother Esau. Tonight for once, let’s not add light to the night. Let’s use our X-ray vision to see into the future, a future of harmony, love, peace, shlaymut, wholeness for everyone, all sentient beings, for the planet and cosmos itself.
    Shabbat shalom,
    Reb David

    Reply
  23. Wendy

    From Rabbi Miriam Maron

    Not Too High
    A Teaching for Chanukah by Rabbi Dr. Miriam Maron

    In the old days, we used to place and light our Chanukah Menorah outside the home, displaying quite overtly this symbolic reminder of the miracle of “the little drop of oil that lasted eight days.” The purpose of lighting the Menorah so that its flames shone more publicly was so that all who passed by on the street would be drawn by the flickering lights and be in that moment reminded of the miracle they represented. In Hebrew, we call this פִּרְסוּמֵי נִיסָא pir’sumay nee’sa, or “highlighting the miracle.” In discussing this practice, the ancient rabbis reminded us, however, that we should make sure the Menorah is situated not too high, but rather at eye-level, again, to ensure pir’sumay nee’sa. In fact, so important did the sages consider the פִּרְסוּמֵי נִיסָאfactor of Chanukah that if it was too late at night, when people were not walking about outside on the road, there was no longer any purpose to lighting your Menorah since there would be no one to see it (Talmud Bav’li, Shabbat 21a). And, as they loved bringing proof for their teachings from out of the Torah — even for teachings about matters that did not even exist back when the Torah was written – they chose the story of Joseph and his brothers (Talmud Bav’li, Shabbat 22a).

    What, you ask, has the story of Joseph and his brothers to do with the proper placement of your Chanukah Menorah? Simply this: When they lowered him into the pit so they could have some time to discuss his fate, it was so deep that they could not see the poisonous vipers and scorpions that swarmed at the very bottom of the pit. In other words, the miraculous scenario of their brother’s survival was out of sight – figuratively and literally – and, had they seen what was at the bottom of the pit, they would have witnessed the miracle, and they would have pulled Joseph out of the pit, brought him home, dusted him off, and apologized profusely. Instead, he ended up being sold into slavery. The concept of pir’sumay nee’sa, the sages thus taught, is an important one, for we too often walk right by some of the greatest and most important miracles of our lives, which, if we but accorded them so much as a moment’s notice, might have brought significant enrichment to our lives.

    Rebbe Nachmon of Breslav taught that when we can’t seem to kindle our inspiration, when we can’t seem to ignite the flames of our passion, we need to look for the smallest gift, the minutest positive occurrence in our life, even if it’s only the fact that we don’t have a headache in the moment. And then to build upon that, to discover more and more of what’s okay – very much like the way we light the Chanukah candles, first one, then two, then three, slowly building-up the light, gradually fanning the flames to fullness. And no more auspicious time to do this than during the period of the Winter Solstice, when during the longest nights, the darkest season, we seek out slivers of light from which we commit to conjuring more and more illumination, fanning the embers of hope and dream to their fullest manifestation as wholesome passionate flames of joy and inspiration.

    So, indeed, may it be!

    Reply
  24. Wendy

    From Rabbi Yoel Glick

    Hanukkah: A Leap of Courage and a Touch of Grace

    http://daatelyon.org/2013/11/hanukkah-a-leap-of-courage-and-a-touch-of-grace/#more-3219

    An additional teaching

    The Hasidic Master, Avraham of Trisk, teaches that on Shavuot we receive the written Torah, and on Hanukkah we receive the oral Torah. On Shavuot, there was a revelation for all of Israel throughout the generations. On Hanukkah, there is an illumination of mind and heart that is meant just for us.

    Reply
  25. Wendy

    From Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

    “Everything revolves around light and darkness”

    Hanukkah is above all a religious war.

    There have been others since then. but this one was the first.

    Everything revolves around light and darkness.

    The little cruse of holy oil that was used to rekindle the lamp stand of the Temple was
    hidden and hard to find.

    The challenge our ancestors faced was to reveal the light.

    We relive this need and this lesson every year on Hanukkah, by lighting an additional light each evening for the eight days of the holiday.

    –Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

    From The Seven Lights by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

    Reply
  26. Wendy

    From Maggid Zelig Golden

    Rededicating Our Sacred Fire

    by Maggid Zelig Golden
    30 Kislev 5774 | December 3, 2013

    Hanukkah, which means “rededication,” commemorates the Maccabee army’s military victory against the Syrian empire, which had nearly defeated the Jews and temporarily occupied the Temple. After the victory of the rebel Macabees, the Jews rededicated the Temple by relighting the sacred fire.

    We know from this story and from the Torah’s description of the Temple activities that our Hebrew ancestors were powerful sacred fire keepers. The Torah instructs, “the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood upon the fire” (Leviticus 1:7). This fire was used in Temple times to make offerings, in Hebrew קרבן (korban), which also means to “come near.” Thus, through the process of making offerings into the sacred fire, we brought ourselves closer to the Divine.

    This fire was so essential to our Divine connection that we kept it burning continuously for hundreds of year: “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it…. A permanent fire shall remain aflame on the altar; it shall not be extinguished” (Leviticus 6:5-6).

    Nearly two thousand years later, how is this relevant to us?

    The element of fire plays a central, sacred role in every ancient culture. It lights up every creation myth, becomes the gathering place for the most powerful stories, supports our rites of passages, and provides a powerful vehicle for healing and connection to Spirit. In this time of reconnecting with our earth-based traditions, there are few traditions as powerful and as important as our sacred relationship to fire.

    Sacred Fire Passover 2013At Passover in the Desert this past year, we kindled and tended a sacred fire continuously from the beginning to the end of the festival to explore how we might begin to reclaim our ancient relationship to fire. Our sixth Passover in the Desert festival was markedly transformed for me and for the many participants who commented that the fire provided a palpable presence and a powerful space that many described as healing and transformative. We experientially learned about the sacred power of fire, something difficult to capture with word, and we will certainly kindle such a fire again at Passover in the Desert this coming spring.

    It is about this power of fire that Rowan, a recent B’naiture graduate, teaches us through his encounter with the Divine that opened for him around his sacred fire, which he tended all night alone to complete his B’naiture experience. Through tending this fire, he awakens new levels of relationship to himself, Creation, and our ancestral stories.

    During Hanukkah, we are particularly invited to tap into the sacred power of fire by kindling flames during eight of the darkest days of the year. These flames, our sages teach us, possess אור הגנוז (Or Haganuz), the hidden light that connects back to the power and purity of the first moments of Creation. On the first day of Creation, the Torah teaches that from the depth of darkness Creator brought forth light with its first words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:1). This first light was a primordial, pure source of energy — different from the light we experience in daily life — and became hidden, we are told, to protect it from those who abuse its power.

    We are also taught that Or Haganuz can provide access to the deepest wisdom and healing. When we light our Hanukkah lights with the purity of intention that matches the purity of this first light, we can gain access to this pure primordial power, which, although hidden from us, has never been extinguished. As we light these flames, we can begin to enter into relationship with the power of this light, which we can carry within us beyond Hanukkah.

    Access to the wisdom of hidden light and the healing power of sacred fire might seem farfetched from our modern perspective. The Hanukkah story of redemption and rededication provides a powerful parable:

    Hanukkah “is also the festival of lighting the fire … for when our ancestors were led into [exile], the sacred priests hid some of the fire. … Many years later Nehemiah sent their descendants to retrieve the hidden fire, but they found only thick muddy water. … Nehemiah commanded the priests to sprinkle the wood and offerings with this water. …then the sun shone, which afore was hid in the cloud, there was a great fire kindled, so that every person marveled” (Maccabees 1:19-22).

    Like the fire hidden by the earlier priests in this Maccabee legend, our ancient sacred fire traditions, used to create powerful connection, have also gone into hiding. While they may seem strange or impossible to recover like fire from muddy water, we have a powerful, ancestral sacred fire tradition just waiting to be rekindled.

    So, as we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Tevet (the new moon of Tevet), may we honor the final days of Hanukkah and the darkest days of the year by perceiving the enormous opportunity of rededication. May we each rededicate our awareness to the power of bringing light into the darkness, the importance of the hidden qualities present in the fires we stoke, and our traditions that point us to new, ancient relationships to the flame that simply awaits our tending.

    Reply
  27. Wendy

    From Kol Aleph

    The dreidl: a simple toy – or is it? by Rabbi Marcia Prager
    by velveteenrabbi
    On my shelf, I have a wild assortment of dreidls. After all, it is rare that any mitzvah that can be artistic remains unembellished. I have jars of plastic dreidls of all colors, dreidls of silver filigree, dreidls carved of olivewood, ones made of clay, and even one tiny dreidl – easily a hundred years old – made of oferet yetzukah, pressed lead.

    Stories of the origin of the dreidl suggest that the toy and its “gambling” game were used by Chanukah celebrants living under the Roman occupation to circumvent Roman edits forbidding group gatherings, and thereby plan acts of resistance. In later times, opting to downplay the military context of the story, the rabbis emphasized the theme of light, the holiness of the miracle of the oil, and the rededication of the Temple as a spiritual victory over darkness.

    The great Rebbes of Eastern Europe elaborated on these themes, using the lessons to offer guidance on the inner work we must undertake when we wish to grow spiritually. Reb Nachman of Bratzlav, the great grandson of the Holy Baal Shem Tov, offers this unusual teaching on the dreidl: The dreidl, he says, is a symbol Creation itself. Why? Because all existence is like a rotating wheel. Existence is dynamic, and full of movement, always revolving and oscillating, never static! Yet also, just like a dreidl which spins on a single point, all of Creation too, emanates from point, one root, one Source.

    The Holy Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple when it stood, was also a symbol of this essential nature of Creation. How can we say that the Temple was like a revolving wheel? Because through our sacred service in the Temple, we initiated a movement of the Divine into the world and elevated the world closer to the Divine. God into world and world into God, round and round. The Temple, (like the human heart) Reb Nachman says, is like a dreidl – a rotating “wheel” where God and world spin in a sacred dance. The Temple is an energy cycle, as is the process of redemption. Even the revelation on Mt. Sinai is such a cycle, a holy choreography in which Moshe and God ascend and descend.

    Reb Nachman invites us, as we spin the toy dreidl, to reflect on our own lives. Where are we in our own cycles of ascent and descent? How connected are all our ups and downs? How is God moving in our lives, or have we lost the “point”? Reb Nachman reminds is that the journey of our own souls is like a dreidl. Of course! Whenever a soul descends into the world, a holy possibility is elevated. This holy possibility is the fulfillment of your own soul’s unique destiny, the realization of your unique potential to learn, love, and choose the good.

    I wish you all a happy spin of the dreidl, and a happy Chanukah.

    Reply
  28. Wendy

    From Kol Aleph

    The Inner Practice of Chanukah by Rabbi Shefa Gold

    Chanukah celebrates the re-dedication of the ancient Holy Temple, the place where the infinite meets the finite, where the spark of God bursts into flame within us. Each year we recall the “great miracle that happened there.” And that same miracle is happening inside as we heal the desecrations we have suffered and re-dedicate our lives to Holiness.

    The Temple of our Soul is desecrated when we endure a sense of separation from God, and from each other. The Temple of our Soul is desecrated when we become cynical, when we feel unworthy or afraid, when we stop trusting the essential goodness of Life. On Chanukah we have an opportunity to clear away the debris that has accumulated in our inner Temple, and then kindle the flame of our renewed intention to stay connected to the Mystery at the center of all Life. That connection to God is our lifeline. That remembrance of God gives us our Freedom. When we forget God, that expansive mystery at our core, we risk becoming enslaved to the illusions of our most narrow perceptions.

    Each day we remember and celebrate the foundational story of our journey to Freedom. God has brought us out of Egypt, the place of narrow perception, for one reason –“to be Your God” – to exist in holy relationship. For this is the key to our Freedom. Conscious connection to the reality that lies beneath the surface of things frees us from the bonds of the material world and allows us to expand beyond the arbitrary limits of a particular conditioned perspective. Yet Freedom is elusive. When we left Egypt in search of it, we were blocked by the great impossible sea. When we crossed the sea and fled to the wilderness we encountered within us the enslaving attitudes and habits of rebellion and complaint. And even after we stood at Sinai and received that moment of clarity, we still fell back into the habits of busy mind and cluttered heart.

    And so God says to us, “Make for me a holy place so that I can dwell inside you. Yes it is possible to stay connected with me at all times in all places, even as you engage in the life of the world.” When we make a place for God to dwell in our lives, then we will never be caught in the illusion of separateness. God will be available and accessible to us in the innermost chamber of the heart and in the inner dimension of all Creation.

    Spiritual practice is about making our lives into a Mishkan, a dwelling place for Divine Presence. About one third of the Book of Exodus consists of the detailed instructions for building the Mishkan, (the portable sanctuary that we carry through our wilderness journeys). The purpose of the Mishkan is to send us to the space within where we can receive the Mystery of Presence. Just as a great poem points us towards a truth that is beyond mere words, so the beauty that shines from the Mishkan of our lives illuminates the beyond that is within us.

    As Judaism evolves, the function of the Mishkan (the place of connection with God) is represented by the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple is destroyed, the place of our connection to God moves inside. Prayer takes the place of sacrifice and the altar of sacrifice is hidden in the dark recesses of our own hearts.

    The story of Chanukah reminds us that even the holiest place within us can become desecrated. We must enter the darkness of our own wounded hearts, survey the damage, clear away the rubble, and then light a candle to rededicate ourselves to holiness, to our own wholeness and connection to the cosmos. It is truly miraculous that a single spark of hope can ignite the radiant fires of passion that illuminate our way forward, even on the darkest night.

    As the days grow short and the night darkness long, we are invited to enter into the darkness of our own hearts. There, buried beneath the rubble of our disappointments, we find the miraculous spark of our Divinity, the awesome knowledge that we are each created in the image of God. This is the spark that kindles our Festival of Lights. Each night of Chanukah, we light another candle. Each night the light grows brighter, shining its radiance into our own hidden places.

    The “Great Miracle” of healing is happening right here within us when we call light into our own places of Darkness, when we bring the healing light of compassion into hidden crevices of shame or fear.

    As we light the flames of Chanukah, may we kindle the flame within that will shine the light of awareness across the true expanse of Soul.

    Reply
  29. Wendy

    From Kol Aleph

    The Prophetic Green Menorah: A Tree of Light by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

    On Shabbat Hanukkah (this year, Dec. 19-20), we read an extraordinary passage from the Prophet Zechariah. Speaking during the Babylonian Captivity, he envisions the future Great Menorah, taking its sacred place in a rebuilt Holy Temple. The Menorah he imagines is alive! — a cybernetic organism, a living Tree that bears the sacred Light.

    Zechariah, in visionary, prophetic style, goes beyond the Torah’s description of the original Menorah (literally, a Light-bearer). That Menorah was planned as part of the portable Shrine, the Mishkan, in the Wilderness.

    First Zechariah describes the Menorah of the future that he sees: “All of gold, with a bowl on its top, seven lamps, and seven pipes leading to the seven lamps.” It sounds like the original bearer of the sacred Light. But then he adds a new detail: “By it are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and one on the left.” (4: 2-3)

    And then –– in a passage the Rabbis did not include in the Haftarah reading for Shabbat Hanukkah – –- Zechariah explains that the two olive trees are feeding their oil directly into the Menorah (4: 11-13). No human being needs to press the olives, collect the oil, clarify and sanctify it. The trees alone can do it all.

    Now wait! This is extraordinary. What is this Light-Bearer that is so intimately interwoven with two trees? Is the Menorah the work of human hands, or itself the fruit of a tree?

    Both, and beyond. In our generation it might be called a “cyborg,” a cybernetic organism that is woven from the fruitfulness both of “adamah” (an earthy sprouting from the humus-soil) and “adam” (a human earthling). Just as earth and earthling were deeply intermingled in one of the biblical Creation stories (Gen 2: 7), so the Divine Light must interweave them once again, and again and again, every time the Light is lit in the Holy Temple.

    What stirs Zechariah to this uncanny vision? If we listen closely to the Torah’s original description of the Menorah for the wandering desert Shrine, we may not be quite so surprised. For the Torah describes a Menorah that has branches, cups shaped like almond-blossoms, blossoms, petals, and calyxes (the tight bundles of green leaves that hold a blossom). (Exodus 25:31-40 and 37:17-24)

    In short, a Tree of Light, a Green Menorah. Small wonder that Zechariah envisioned its receiving oil directly from the olive-trees!

    Since Zechariah is seen as a Prophet by Christians and Muslims as well as by Jews, his vision may invite all three Abrahamic communities to connect with the Green Menorah Covenant.

    And in the more specifically Jewish legend told by the Talmud as the origin of Hanukkah, the Light itself is a miracle. Oil that would normally have been enough only for one day’s worth of light lasts for eight days, until more oil can be consecrated.

    At the physical level, “One day’s oil meets eight days’ needs.” This is olive oil, a growable, replaceable, sustainable source of light.

    Different from coal, oil, and frackable unnatural gas. For all these are limited, and as their easily available sources run out the corporations whose profit depends on them turn to extreme extraction: mountaintop destruction for coal, using chemicalized water under extreme pressure to smash shale rock for gas, mining ultra-carbon-heavy Tar Sands, drilling miles deep beneath ocean floors. All these damage and endanger the local communities where they are used.

    And now we know that burning these fossil fuels in huge amounts scorches our planet as well. Floods our rivers and our coastal cities, parches our cornfields, imposes higher food prices on everyone and brings famine and starvation upon the hungry billions, storms our subways, melts the snows of Kilimanjaro and the Himalayas that meet the water needs of whole civilizations.

    So the Talmudic legend of the eight-day lamp takes on a Prophetic wisdom for our day: Conserving energy.

    Seen this way, the Green Menorah can become the symbol of a covenant to renew the miracle of Hanukkah in our own generation: Cutting oil consumption by seven-eighths – and quickly. If not now, when?

    If this seems overwhelmingly hard to accomplish against the entrenched power of our own oil empires, Hanukkah also reminds us of the victory of the guerrilla band of Maccabees over the great empire of their generation: Small groups of seemingly powerless human beings can face huge and powerful institutions – and change the world.

    But let us not stop at the economic, political, or even ecological levels of meaning. At the spiritual level, “seven” is the number of Fullness and “eight” is the number of “Beyond.” So the storied One Light that becomes Eight Lights reminds us that the Infinite is always present in the One.

    It reminds us that conserving oil, or coal, or our planet, is not just a political or economic or even ecological decision. It comes when we take into our hearts the knowledge that addiction to material possessiveness, hyper-ownership – needing to make eight bottles of oil in order to “own” the Temple’s Light – is likely to be a form of idolatry, not a path to our well-being. Blowing up mountaintops, raping the Gulf of Mexico, mining Tar Sands, fracking shale are likely to be forms of idolatry, not paths to our well-being.

    Beyond every “thing” is the Infinite – and the Infinite is always present when we choose to light the Light.

    Blessings of a Light-filled Hanukkah to light up our path ahead – the path to heal our wounded earth, to pursue shalom, salaam, paz, peace for earthy humankind in the midst of sacred Earth.

    Also by Reb Arthur

    We light one candle and contemplate The One: the Breath of Life that unifies all life upon our planet.

    Two candles: We contemplate I-Thou: the relationship of open heart-connection in which neither party is a tool to Do and Make, but a being to Be With.

    Three candles: We contemplate Time will; Time is; Time was.

    Four candles: We contemplate The Four Worlds: Atzilut: Being/ Spirit/ Sheer Will to create, before/beyond Creation; Briyyah: Creative Intellect, Idea; Yetzirah: Relationship: Ethics & Emotions; Asiyah: Actuality, Physicality.

    Five candles: We contemplate Fingers poised to act, to caress, to smash.

    Six candles: We contemplate Work.

    Seven candles: We contemplate Fullness, Restfulness, Enoughness.

    Eight candles : We contemplate Infinitude. Beyond.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Rabbi Shoshana Leis & David Eber, RRC student and intern at The Shalom Center, each independently raised the question: In the midst of a Shmita year, should we light the Hanukkah candles as Shammai taught, beginning with eight and going down to one? These are my thoughts about this question:

    The Sages decided that Hillel’s teachings should be followed in ordinary history, but Shammai’s teachings would apply in Mashiachtzeit.

    Applying this to the Hanukkah candles, what would be Messianic about Shammai’s teaching that we begin with eight lights and night by night go down to one?

    In ordinary history, we are afraid of the dark. So as the sun dwindles and the moon vanishes, we light more and more and more lights to keep our courage up.

    BUT — ven kummt Mashiach, we will no longer be afraid of the dark. We will instead welcome it as Mystery. So then we can act as Shammai teaches: Darker and darker, till only the ONE remains.

    And we might see Shmita as a foretaste of Yemot HaMashiach.

    Shalom, salaam, peace, Earth! — Arthur

    Reply
  30. Wendy

    From Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

    Rabbi Aaron Alexander

    A Single Flame – A Deep Light

    Hanukkah, unlike many other Jewish holidays, is pretty much a one-pony show. There is no Seder, no required festive meal, and no forbidden activities (melakhot). Along with a handful of liturgical additions – the primary ritual of Hanukkah is lighting the candles. In fact, almost every chapter on Hanukkah in Judaism’s major law codes explicates various details about candles: why do we light the candles, what kind of candles, who lights them, where do we light them, and when is the choice time for lighting candles –

    Perhaps the most fascinating for me personally, is the directive that our hanukkiot should not be similar to a bonfire (Shulhan Arukh, Orach Hayyim, 671:4). That is to say, they should be in a straight line across, so each and every candle can be individually discerned when looking directly at it. If the candles are arranged in a circle, or if the flames are combined, it would be impossible to differentiate between the lights. The legal principle behind this directive (and the legal principle behind almost all the laws related to lighting the hanukkiah) is pirsumei nissa, or publicizing the miracle. By allowing each person to see the distinct light of each candle we simultaneously recall the story of Hanukkah and offer the chance, and challenge, to experience the miracle anew.

    The idea of an individual candle or a single flame in our tradition reaches beyond just the Hanukkah candle. Before Passover, our tradition commands us to remove all of our leaven (hametz) from our possession. This obligation is manifest in the ancient practice of using a single candle to search each crack and crevice in our homes, a job that a large flame or torch could not easily accomplish. The individual candle does not only function practically, it is also a reminder that the spiritual cleaning for Passover, the removal of our internal hametz (often understood to be excessive pride and hubris), cannot be done with a superficial once-over. The small flame, the dim light, takes us another step deeper to access the space of our psyche that we are more hesitant to engage.

    The Mei Hashiloach (Rabbi Mordechai Yosef of Isbitza, 1800-1854) embellishes this point, exploring the difference between a torch and a single flame. He claims that while the Torah, represented by a torch, is capable of refining the whole person over time, an individual mitzvah, or a single flame can penetrate the depths of one’s immediate religious experience. He illustrates this point from the Talmud, “Concerning which mitzvah was your father most scrupulous – He answered that it was the mitzvah of Tziztit (fringes).” (Shabbat118b)

    The Mei HaShiloach comments that he needed this particular mitzvah–a candle, as it were–to replenish that place in his soul in which he saw himself as deficient. By wrapping himself each morning in his tallit, this gentleman was reminded of where he needed to focus his energy – on the miracles of the tradition to which he needed to be awakened. The tallit was for him an impetus for growth.

    Each of us may also have a specific mitzvah that moves us in a unique way, and forces us to open up to the world in a fresh way through the lens of Judaism and its minor and major miracles. Viewing the candles collectively arouses in us an awareness of potential for future growth. Each Hanukkah candle represents a specific moment in our lives, a specific mitzvah that penetrates us, or a miracle that we have yet to allow ourselves to experience. By keeping them separate and distinct, the task of recognizing each one is realistic.

    So I ask you – what will you recall as you light each candle this Hanukkah – What miracle will the light help you recognize – How can each candle kindle your soul –

    Hanukkah Sameach.

    Reply
  31. Aryae Post author

    From NeoHasid.org by Rabbi David Seidenberg

    Meditation song for Chanukah

    It’s a custom to meditate on the light of the menorah and it’s also a custom to sing while meditating. Most of the usual Chanukah songs won’t quite get you there—they are written for children after all.

    The nigun I learned to use for this comes to me from the great-granddaughter of the Skolyer Rebbe, and is attributed by some to the Besht (Baal Shem Tov). She learned this deveikes nigun from her grandmother, who would sing the entire prayer of Ana Bekhoach to this nigun sitting in front of the menorah while watching the Chanukah candles burn.

    You can find the nigun at Meditation song for Chanukah.

    You can find a collection of different melodies to the worlds of Ana Bekhoach, including melodies from Reb Zalman and Reb Shlomo, at Ana Bekhoach.

    Reply
  32. Wendy

    From Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

    Lamp

    When grief has
    splashed my fire out,
    when my sanctuary

    is dark, smeared
    with boot prints
    and wet ashes

    when the holy of holies
    inside my rib cage
    is an aching void

    It is you who wipe
    tears from my face
    with tender hands

    who remind me
    I deserve better
    than desolation

    who light my lamp.
    Bring me your flame.
    I want to shine again.

    Reply
  33. Wendy

    From Rav Kook

    Every person must know and understand
    That a candle burns deep within him,
    And his candle is unlike his friend’s
    And no man without a candle exists.
    And every man must know and understand
    That he must strive to uncover
    The light of the candle publicly
    And light it into a great torch
    And light the whole world

    Reply
  34. Wendy

    From Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan

    Inner Dark, Inner Light
    December 9, 2015

    Hanukkah: a time to enjoy family, friends, songs, rich foods, parties, gifts, and games. To share story and history, to be both credulous and critical about the Maccabees and their legacy. To re-commit to overturning injustice and oppression.

    Or maybe — if winter’s dark sucks the life from your mood — a time to get quiet and work at accepting yourself.

    This is not a consolation prize, but a traditional interpretation of the holiday lights.

    On the first day of creation, Torah says, God made light. Perhaps you imagine a sky filled with the diffuse light of dawn, with the glow from a sun just beyond the horizon. But, Torah reminds us, there is no sky until the second day. And there is no sun, not until the fourth day.

    What kind of light was created on the first day?

    Not the kind generated physically from a star, fire, or bulb. Or that facilitates sight, showing us a physical world.

    Perhaps a spiritual or an intellectual light, facilitating insight, making it possible to “see” God’s divine plan.

    Yes, says the Midrash, that’s exactly what it was. Over time God sadly realized that few humans care about such insight. So God hid that subtle light, saving it for the righteous as they explored the “world to come” (Talmud Chagigah 12b).

    Surely, say later interpreters, God overstated the case. Most people can handle a little bit of insight. Maybe God hid the light where it can be discovered bit by bit.

    In the Torah, perhaps; in the white fire peeking out between the letters. Where anyone dedicated enough to “read between the lines” can see it.

    And in the lights of the Chanukah candles, of course. In a thirty-minute glow, on eight dark days. Anyone who “reads between the lines” of the party can see it.

    Spring’s long social days are gone. Summer’s festival-filled streets are quiet. Fall’s busyness is winding down. Winter’s short days send us inside — physically and spiritually.

    Some people avoid an inner look, filling their home with sounds, smells, tastes and guests. Each night, they light an additional candle, adding to their festive joy.

    Others, overwhelmed, avoid the crowds. For them, the candles have a special message. “Don’t worry if you’re low in winter! It is the inward season. Reflect our light; reflect on yourself.”

    Each night, these inner travellers light an additional candle, adding to their insight. Through their self-acceptance, a bit of creation’s hidden light is revealed.

    Reply
  35. Wendy

    From Reb Shlomo

    ·
    From Seven Chanukah Teachings, compiled by Joel Greenblatt

    Everybody knows that Chanukah is really the end of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Simchas Torah. That means that the High Holidays are all beautiful, but the highest point of them all is on Chanukah.
    On Rosh Hashanah, I am in awe before the King of kings.
    On Yom Kippur, I stand before G*d again and measure myself. Inside I am saying to myself, ‘I did such and such good deeds and such and such not so good deeds.’
    But on Chanukah I stop thinking this way all together because the deepest question is not how many evil deeds and how many good deeds I have done.
    The deepest question is “What do I have inside of me?”
    When the whole story is over, what remains inside of me? How do I feel? Am I closer than I ever was with G*d? Am I in touch with the inside of my soul? Is there any light left in my heart? Where am I?
    If after all these questions, I discover that there is still light left inside of me, then I owe it to the world. I must be the one to help bring the Mashiach. I must be the one to open the doors for G*d’s Light to shine into the world. However, if after all these questions, I am still left in the dark; if after all these holidays, the world around me is still in the dark, then I must ask myself, ‘What good was it all?’
    On Yom Kippur, G*d forgives us for our mistakes. On Simchas Torah we dance them all off. But that still does not answer the question, ‘When does G*d fix our hearts? When does G*d take all the hatred and pain from our hearts? When are we healed? When does G*d give us back the holiness of once again being able to see that Light in others and being able to bless them in our own hearts? When do we recognize the Light in ourselves and in all of those beautiful people around us?’
    The answer my beautiful friends, is on Chanukah. Chanukah is the time of the Macabees, descendants of Aaron the High Priest. Aaron’s specialty was making peace between people. How can someone make peace between people?
    Aaron HaCohen had the level of holiness of actually being able to cleanse a person’s heart of all hatred and pain. It was only after that cleansing that they could see the light in others and make peace with the entire world around them. This is a very special blessing he gave to us.
    Face it. If each time I make a mistake, I feel more bitterness towards others, its only because I feel bitterness towards myself.
    And with every bit of this bitterness, I become further and further away from my neshama (my soul), and from my own heart.
    On Yom Kippur, it may be that G*d fixes my soul.
    But its on Chanukah that the Great Light shines into my heart.
    And so when I stand before a mirror, I see a beautiful person instead of a shmendrik.
    So on Chanukah, my beautiful friends, the lights are burning, even into the darkest hours of the night. And while that light flickers, we are praying, “Master of the World, if it is my mistakes that have kept me in darkness, let this Chanukah Light shine into all areas of my darkness. Let this Chanukkah Light keep me from ever hating people. Let this Chanukah Light give me so much holiness that all the darkness of the world can not take away my love for myself and all the beautiful people.”
    And so I want to bless you and bless myself that this Chanukah should fix us and its Light should reach the darkest corners of our hearts. And we should all be blessed to realize that when we do kindle a candle, it is G*d’s Light we have brought into the world.

    Reply
  36. Wendy

    From Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

    Rabbi Ephraim Pelcovits

    For the Love of the Ordinary

    For the past six months, at least (!) my children have been planning for Hanukkah: making sure we know what kinds of presents they are hoping for, or perhaps better yet, expecting; anticipating a visit from grandparents who live far away; and planning for a vacation from school and a family trip. And so, this Shabbat, a time we typically look forward to as a family, when our normal junk food rules go out the window and we have plenty of time to play together, will be transformed into a day that I know my children will be looking to “just get through” so that we can light our Menorahs, fry fresh latkes, and most importantly, open a first batch of gifts!

    Anticipating this challenge – of Shabbat being potentially overlooked as a result of our anticipation of the onset of Hanukkah – drew my attention to a ruling of Maimonides in his collection of Hanukkah laws. (Mishnah Torah, Laws of Purim and Hanukkah 4:14) There he declares, “If one is so terribly impoverished that he or she can only afford to purchase candles for either Shabbat or Hanukkah candle lighting – then Shabbat candles take precedence and Hanukkah candles are set aside.” While Maimonides himself clarifies his rational for this ruling, explaining that Hanukkah candles are meant to shine their light outward, to the world at large, while Shabbat candles, even more crucially, are intended to light the insides of our homes, allowing for a peaceful and loving domestic life. Perhaps however, Maimonides also prefers that we purchase Shabbat candles based on a famous rabbinic principle, Tadir, v’She’eino Tadir, Tadir Kodem – Mitzvot that are common are given preference over mitzvot that are uncommon. Yes, you heard that correctly, all things being equal, our classical literature teaches us to give precedence to the normal over the extraordinary in observing Jewish ritual.

    There is something beautifully counter cultural in this rabbinic axiom. It recognizes that while we are naturally drawn to the new – be it an iPhone 7 over an iPhone 6, or the Menorah that has sat in our breakfront unused for the last 11 months over our Shabbat candle sticks – that which is ordinary can be incredibly important, perhaps even more important, than that which is bright and new. The rhythm of both our religious observance, and of our daily secular life as well, is necessary to provide structure, balance and meaning to the schedule of our lives.

    This lesson of “Tadir, V’She’eino Tadir…” seems even more important in the life we live today, than I imagine it may have been in a time of gradual change. Today, with the dynamism of our lives, it can be exceedingly difficult to establish patterns and create the structure that makes sense of our existence. In this environment, it can be the most mundane things that allow us to sustain healthy relationships and personal wellbeing. Whether it’s regularly unloading the dishwasher for a roommate, or reading a nightly bedtime story to a child before she drifts off to sleep, everyday rituals are the traffic lights that keep us safe. While extraordinary ceremonies can inspire and lift us, let’s not forget the importance of the ordinary, especially in this extraordinary time of the year. Shabbat candles are just as important as Hanukkah candles. Thank you Maimonides for reminding me of the importance of ordinary acts, especially during this season of the unexpected.

    Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!

    Reply
  37. Wendy

    From Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan

    By Spirit Alone (Haftarat Hanukah)
    December 30, 2016
    Leave a comment
    Zechariah’s Menorah.jpgBetween 538 and 520 BCE, a first wave of Jews exiled from Judea by Nebuchadnezzar leave Persia to come home. Governor Zerubavel, a descendent of King David, together with the high priest Yehoshua, leads them. The visionary prophet Zechariah offers spiritual support.

    One night, an angelic guide shows the prophet a vision of Yehoshua the high priest, newly purified, dressed in shining garments, standing in a renewed Temple with a redesigned menorah. Zechariah watches as God makes a promise to Yehoshua: under the leadership of Zerubavel, a messianic peace will fill the land with friendship and fertility.

    Zechariah asks his guide, “What does all this mean?”

    “You know what it means!” the angel says.

    “No I don’t!” says Zechariah.

    “It means: not by might and not by power, but by my spirit” (4:6).

    God’s words may have been clear to Zechariah, but they have challenged generations of interpreters.

    Rashi (France, 1040-1105) thinks God is speaking to Yehoshua, saying, “I will cause the Persian emperor Darius to fund your project.”

    Michael Fishbane (USA, 1943-present) also reads a message to Yehoshua, “I will gift Governor Zerubavel with the spiritual qualities he needs to succeed.”

    Malbim (Russia, 1809-1879), however, sees the exact opposite message, directed at Zechariah, “In Messianic time, I will not continue to work through the gifts of emperors and governors, but will manifest in the world directly.”

    I also see a message to Zechariah, but a more personal one: “This is not a vision of military victory or political independence. It is a vision of spiritual restoration. Now get out there and teach people how to develop spiritually!”

    Reply
  38. Wendy

    From Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

    On being enough, the “inner accuser,” and letting our light shine

    רָנִּ֥י וְשִׂמְחִ֖י בַּת־צִיּ֑וֹן כִּ֧י הִנְנִי־בָ֛א וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֥י בְתוֹכֵ֖ךְ נְאֻם־יְה

    “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion! For behold, I come, and I will dwell within you, says Adonai.”
    That’s the first line of the special haftarah reading for Shabbat Chanukah, Zechariah 2:14-4:7, which I chanted many years ago at my bat mitzvah.

    I’ve remembered that opening line all these years. But there’s much in this haftarah from Zechariah that I didn’t remember. For instance, Zechariah’s vision of Joshua, the high priest, standing before God as though on trial, with השטן / ha-satan, “the Accuser,” there to accuse him. But God rebukes the accuser, says that Joshua is a “firebrand plucked from the fire,” and makes his dirty garments white as snow.

    Then an angel wakes Zechariah and asks what he sees. Zechariah describes a vision of a golden menorah, mystically fed by a stream of flowing oil direct from two olive trees. Zechariah asks the angel what this means, and the angel tells him, “‘Not by might, and not by power, but by My spirit alone’ — so says the God of Hosts.”

    The vision of the golden menorah may be why these verses are chanted on Shabbat Chanukah. They evoke the miracle: the oil that should not have been enough to keep the eternal flame kindled, but somehow it was enough. Or maybe the miracle is that our forebears took the leap of faith of lighting the eternal flame in the first place.

    These verses evoke, too, our sages’ decision centuries ago not to include the story of guerilla warfare in our sacred scripture. The Books of Maccabees, which tell the tale of the insurgency against Antiochus, are not part of the Hebrew Bible. When we tell the story of Chanukah, we tell the story of the miracle — the oil, and the faith — not the story of insurgents fighting soldiers. “Not by might, and not by power, but by My spirit alone.”

    What we have, what we are, is enough — even at times when we fear we don’t have enough to offer. Even when all we have are the tiny sparks of hope we nurture and carry in our own hearts. We read in Proverbs that “The candle of God is the soul of a human being.” Our souls are God’s candles. It’s our job to be the light of the world. So far, so good. But what do I make of that perplexing passage earlier in the haftarah, the vision of Joshua and ha-satan, the Accuser?

    This year I read those verses as a parable about internal reality. I know what it’s like to hear the words of my inner accuser. That voice tells me that my mis-steps disqualify me from being the person I want to be. Who am I to claim to be a servant of the Most High when my garments are so shabby — when the life I try to weave is so riddled with mistakes, disappointments, inadequacies? That voice reminds me of all the good I intended to do in the world that I failed to do, the loved ones whose suffering I cannot alleviate, the problems I cannot fix.

    But the Holy One of Blessing sees me otherwise. God sees me through loving eyes. God sees my good intentions, even when I don’t live up to them the way I wish I could. God sees my struggles and my griefs not as a sign that I am failing, but as the refining fire that burns away my illusions. God says to my inner accuser: this soul is a burning branch plucked from the fire of human circumstance, and her yearning to do better and be better is what enables her light to shine. God says to my inner accuser: see, I forgive this soul’s mis-steps, and I make the garment of her life as white as snow.

    Each of us has that inner accuser… and each of us can experience redemption from that voice when we remember that we are seen also through loving eyes. If you believe in a God Who sees you, then those loving eyes are Divine. If you don’t believe in that kind of personalized deity, then those eyes may be those of someone in your life… or they may be your own eyes, when you take the leap of faith of seeing yourself the way you wish your dearest beloved could see you.

    In Zechariah’s vision, Joshua’s garments become white as snow. Just so for all of us. When we do our own inner work to try to be better, our tradition teaches, we are forgiven. And the sorrows of the old year, the stains and smudges on our life’s “garment,” do not disqualify us from hoping for better in the year to come. On the contrary: it is precisely with awareness of our mistakes and our sorrows that we are called to hope for better — to kindle the light of hope even when reason would argue otherwise.

    Our task is to let our light shine, and to trust in the One Who ensures that what we have, that what we are, is enough to meet whatever comes.

    This is the d’var haftarah I offered at my shul earlier today, on New Year’s Eve Day which is also Shabbat Chanukah which is also my bat-mitzvah-versary.

    Reply
  39. Wendy

    From Maggid Jhos Singer

    Hannukah Blessing

    Darkness gets a bad rap, and I’m kinda tired of that.

    In fact, the dark is just as important to the spiritual journeyer as light. Take Jacob—it is in the dark of night that he encounters the divine through dreams and a mystical physical encounter. Human life begins in the darkness of the womb, we instinctively close our eyes when we pray or meditate, and most of us prefer to sleep in the safe, still, embrace of darkness—because we know in the dark we can see what light obscures.

    So, being a part-time contrarian, I bless our community this Hannukah with the celebration of holy darkness—the place of incubation, faith and rest, enigma, vision and humility. It is truly amazing how darkness magnifies even the tiniest spark. So, let us come to trust and love the darkness. Let us learn to navigate our way through these mysterious and disorienting times with grace and balance! Indeed, in the dark, even a tiny source of light radiates farther and longer than we ever thought possible. In dark times none of us goes unnoticed—a smile, a kind word, a contribution to the well being of all—just like that, we shine. Blessed be the miracle of darkness!!

    Chag Hannukah sameach—Jhos

    Reply
  40. Wendy

    From Rabbi Yoel Glick

    Hanukkah: A Holiday of Illumination and Rededication

    Rabbi Yoel Glick
    December 7, 2017

    The Light of the Atman, the Spirit, is invisible, concealed in all beings. It is seen by the seers of the subtle, when their vision is keen and is clear….
    Awake, arise! Strive for the Highest, and be in the Light!
    Katha Upanishad, part 3 [1]
    Light is the language of the spiritual life. Light is the medium that dominates our experience of God. The reality of the supernal worlds manifests as resplendent light.
    Our experience of this inner radiance is constantly evolving. Each year, we receive another level of luminosity. Rebbe Natan of Nemirov teaches that Hanukkah is the time when we receive this new light, the unique light that will illuminate the whole of the coming year.
    This process of receiving new light is at the heart of our spiritual evolution. We are always moving into greater and greater illumination. This, Rebbe Natan explains, is why one more candle is added to the Hannukiah (Hanukkah menorah) every day. We are entering into an ever-increasing revelation of Divine light.
    New light, Rebbe Natan tells us, means further illumination of the mind. This illumination is expressed in a greater clarity of vision. Our consciousness is covered over with layer after layer of illusion. When we receive extra illumination, we break through another level of the “great illusion” which clouds our hearts and minds. Hanukkah is the moment of that breakthrough.
    This spiritual breakthrough, Rebbe Natan says, is facilitated in two ways. The first method is through prayer and praise of God. These spiritual practices expand our consciousness out of the narrow limitations of mundane existence. This is the reason, Rebbe Natan explains, that we say Hallel (special Psalms of praise) on Hanukkah.
    The second way of facilitating this breakthrough is by giving tzedakah (charity). Tzedakah opens and expands our heart. This also loosens the hold of material reality upon us and brings in new light.
    This is the reason why the Hasidic Master, Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, counseled his followers to always give charity before they prayed. He knew that this would open their hearts and draw the flow of Divine blessing into them.
    According to Rebbe Natan, the initial attempt to discover our inner light is always the most difficult. When we strive to peel back the layers of illusion that surround us, the forces of illusion react to try and block our way. The very fabric of this physical reality resists our attempt to release its grip upon us. As we press against the barrier in consciousness, it increases the strain between these two competing realities, like the strain that builds up when we try to push through a physical barrier. This tension increases until the barrier finally shatters and we break through into a higher plane of consciousness.
    In the Hanukkah story, when the Maccabees entered the Temple, they could not find a jar of undefiled oil. They searched and searched but not one jar of sacred oil was to be found. Once they finally discovered the first small jar of oil, however, the miracle occurred and the menorah burned from that one jar for eight days. Similarly, in our own spiritual quest, once we have overcome the initial barrier, the light will begin to build on its own, gaining more strength and illumination with each new day.
    This, Rebbe Natan continues, is another reason why we add one more candle to the hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) each day, to remind us that the light of the previous day or days is never lost. On the contrary, the light of each previous day supports and bolsters the light of the next day until on the final day we get a full- fledged blaze of light.
    If the light of a thousand suns suddenly arose in the sky, that splendor might be compared to the radiance of the Supreme Spirit.
    And Arjuna saw in that radiance the whole universe in its variety, standing in a vast unity in the body of the God of gods.
    Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 11:12-13 [2]
    In a real spiritual experience, the inner effulgence is overpowering, so much so that it makes all else seem insubstantial and unreal. We experience this inner light by diving deep into the temple of our hearts. There we will find a jar of pure oil that is stamped with the seal of the High Priest – a place of pure devotion that is untainted by worldliness and selfish desires. This inner space holds the light of Hanukkah – a light that is clear and welcoming, a light overflowing with joy.
    In the Hanukkah story it is the Assyrian Greeks that overrun the land and desecrate the Temple. They represent the culture of the gymnasium – the worship of the body, of physical pleasure and prowess. They represent the illusion of the power of man. Hanukkah is about tearing down this illusion through increased illumination and inner light. Hanukkah is a revelation of the truth that there is more to life than this material reality which we perceive with our senses.
    The light of Hanukkah leads us to rededicate our lives to God and the spiritual life. It deepens our yearning for God and our desire to live a life of service and high aspiration. It strengthens our resolve to find purpose and meaning in our lives.
    This is why the rabbis specified that the commandment of lighting the Hanukkah lamp is fulfilled “Ner, ish ubeito” – a light for each person and their household. On Hanukkah we realize that it is not enough for us to dedicate our religious practices to God, we need to dedicate and sanctify every aspect of our lives – every word, thought and deed – every encounter and every relationship.
    Psalm 30, which we recite on Hanukkah, begins: “A Psalm of dedication of the house.” The rededication of Hanukkah is the rededication of our lives to the work of building a place for God’s presence upon earth. We construct this divine house by transforming ourselves into a temple through which the power of the supernal planes can flow into our physical plane of existence. We bring the Divine Presence into the world by giving of the illumination that we have received to others – by filling the world with divine love, generosity and compassion, by permeating the planet with light, energy and peace.
    In the Scriptures of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak declares:
    My mind is in ecstasy, hearing, that the Lord is to come into my Home.
    O my friends, Sing now the Wedding Songs, for, my Home has now become a Temple.
    Guru-Granth Sahib, Ramkali M. 3, Anand: 34 [3]
    This year as we light the Hanukkah lamp, let us sing the wedding songs. Let us rededicate our lives and our household to God. May our homes be transformed into a temple for the Divine Presence. May we experience the sublime ecstasy of a new light entering into our heart.

    Copyright © 2017, by Yoel Glick
    Acknowledgements
    Acknowledgements (↵ returns to text)
    Upanishads , translated by Juan Mascaro, p. 61↵
    Bhagavad Gita, translated by Juan Mascaro, p. 53↵
    Guru –Granth Sahib, Vol. III, p. 878, translated by Dr. Gopal Singh↵

    Reply
  41. Wendy

    From Ibrahim Baba

    Chag Urim Sameyach: Hanukkah blessing
    Ibrahim Baba Dec 2013

    In this season of the play of darkness and light,
    Of death and re-birth,
    Of the many and of the One,
    May we be blessed to be the People of Light, those who carry within us and body forth in the world
    Light upon LIGHT!

    In these times of brokenness, alienation, fear of each other, fear of fear
    May we be blessed to find our inner tzaddik of all genders,
    May we be blessed to go to the places where we are called to release and raise Divine sparks;
    May we liberate those sparks of Light wherever we go,
    Especially amongst those and in those places that are the most forgotten and ignored.
    May Daylight break in the middle of the Night
    And turn into Day a Night which is still there
    But which becomes a Night of Light:
    Light upon LIGHT!

    May we as People of the Wisdom of the Heart
    Be blessed to draw near, like our many holy ancestors, to the
    Brilliant luminosity in darkness and the brilliant darkness in luminosity
    May we, like the lights of Hanukkah which shine towards the outside,
    Be blessed to have inside become outside
    And outside become inside,
    Both dwelling and indwelling radiantly together.

    May we then be blessed to go together into the world
    As bold tikkun olamologists,
    Healing the world,
    Transforming the world
    As we transform ourselves:
    Light upon LIGHT!

    May we create a world where beings of all species go from strength to strength in blessed harmony
    With Light before us and behind us,
    Above us and beneath us
    On our left and on our right
    Within us and outside of us:

    Light upon LIGHT!

    Reply
  42. Wendy

    From Rabbi David Seidenberg

    There’s a custom to gaze at the menorah, to receive its light as the purest of gifts. Gazing at the Hanukkah candles or oil lamps becomes a kind of fixing for the eyes, a training in how to see. Gaze at the candles well, and your eyes get retuned.
    The same thing can happen when you gaze at the heavens. Two springs ago, when Mars was coming the closest it had been to Earth in a decade, I started paying attention to what was up there, and I began learning basic things, like how to tell a planet from a star. It’s simple: a planet is a steady, unwavering, untwinkling point of light, while a star twinkles.

    Mars’s steady and growing brightness that May inspired me to buy my first telescope in June. It turns out that you have to retune your eyes and your mind to see through a telescope. The first time I saw Jupiter’s moons, I wondered if I was “seeing things”—maybe those dots were just reflections of light in the lens. I moved my eye closer and farther away from the eyepiece to find the spot where the image was brightest and most in-focus, to make sure of what I was seeing.

    To see Jupiter’s belts, you have to look even harder, more intently. It took me a few days before I understood how to see them.

    Standing under the Milky Way/ public domain (goodfreephotos.com)

    Like gazing at the menorah, looking through a telescope can also be a kind of fixing for the eyes, a tikkun that opens up a person to see not just images but worlds.

    There’s a prayer about how to see that is traditionally recited after lighting a chanukiyah or menorah. It goes, “Hanerot halalu kodesh heim” – “These candles are holy” and continues, “and we are not free to use them, but only to see them…” Hanerot Halalu defines our relation to holiness as “seeing without using.” It is not the light from the flames, but our way of seeing them, that needs to be pure. Seeing becomes an act of grace and a gift we give, instead of a step towards what we can take.

    Keeping the candles holy is why we have the shamash. Reading Hanerot Halalu, or Maoz Tzur, or spinning a dreidl by the light of the menorah is using the light to see something. So we imagine we are using the light from the shamash to read by, not the light of the other flames.

    Hanerot Halalu further explains that we only see the candles “in order to give thanks to Your name for Your miracles, Your salvation, and Your wonders.” Not just the miracle and wonder of Hanukkah, but all miracles. How does our seeing the lights without using them to see something else lead to becoming aware of miracle and wonder and giving thanks?

    It’s not hard to understand if you look at the stars in a place where the sky is dark. People almost instinctively ask, how can we be so blessed to live under such an endless expanse of beauty? As Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us, wonder or radical amazement leads to appreciation of the divine.

    What I realized thinking about this is that gazing at the stars, even without a telescope, can also retune our eyes. A clear and dark night sky is full of texture, feeding our eyes with so many magnitudes and hues of stars, bright to faint, red or yellow or blue, while feeding our minds with awareness that there are so many more stars, beyond what the eye can see. Stargazing teaches us to peer into the depth of the darkness that surrounds the stars, to understand that what is invisible is so much vaster than what is visible. Feeding our eyes fills our hearts with wonder, and hearts full of wonder overflow with gratitude.

    Just so, wonder comes to us when we gaze at the menorah lights against the backdrop of the darkest nights of the year. And the very darkest night is not winter solstice, the year’s longest night, but the new moon close to solstice, which is the seventh night of Hanukkah. Beyond the visible miracle of the flames that are lit, or the oil that stayed lit in ancient times, there is the miracle of the darkness. The small steady flames of the menorah are a tikkun, a healing for our vision, because they teach us to see both miracles.

    Reply
  43. Wendy

    From Rabbi T’mimah Ickovits

    Chanukiah
    Hannukah Expansion and Contraction by Rabbi T’mimah Ickovits

    Have you ever thought about how many candles are lit during Hannukah?

    On the first day of Hannukah one candle is lit, the second day two,.. on the eighth day eight candles are lit. Each day an additional candle is added,

    Talmud documents dialogues of diverse schools of thought and methods; some practiced in community and others not. Talmud is a glimpse and invitation into the ongoing conversation. Increasing the candle count each day was initiated by the Hillel Academy. It invites a sense of growth, expansiveness, and encouragement.

    It turns out that a different candle lighting method was initiated by Shammai Academy – they began by lighting the maximum number of candles, eight, on the first day, seven on the second reducing to a single candle the eighth day. Later Kabbalists teach that in the future to come, when Messianic consciousness fills the world, the Shammai Academy’s method will prevail.

    Jewish traditions started in the Northern Hemisphere, and so holy time is referenced from here. During Hannukah, the nights are dark and the days are short.

    Months on the Jewish calendar begin with the new moon, peak with the moon in fullness when many festivals are celebrated. Then, cycle back to the new moon. The eight days of Hannukah begin while the moon is waning on the 25th day of Kislev; the darkness peaks during the holiday just before the new moon of Tevet and continues a day through the second day of Tevet as a sliver of Moon is visible. Candles are lit bringing participation, a sense of mystery, vision, and brilliance.

    The total number of Hannukah candles lit (aside from the shamus) is the same in both methods described. How many Hannukah candles are lit during the total holiday? 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8=36.

    A total of 36 Hannukah Candles.

    The Hasidic Master Bnay Yisaskhar from his book by the same name (1783-1841) http://rabbishimon.com/tzadikim/showz.php?p=dinov.htm) writes:

    …(The early rabbis ) established 36 candles in correspondence to the 36 hours of initial pure potent light available to the very first humans in the Garden of Eden (Pesiktah 2:2)…

    (The holy rebbe, Ba’al haRokayah; Master of the Apothecary) …whose words of Kabbalah come directly from Eliyahu haNavih z”l says, the glow of the Hannukah mitzvah candle is the glow of the Ohr Ganuz; this light hidden. It was intentionally established (in this way) through Ruah Hakodesh* for the future generations because they (the early rabbis) knew that each and every year this light would be revealed.

    That is why these days are called “Hannukah”, – that is, it is “hinukh” training (same Hebrew root as Hannukah.) for cultivating familiarity with the coming Future Redemption. Then, this light (first light of Eden) will be revealed in fullness.

    Like the sages said in Hagigah 12b – ‘and they hid it for Tzaddikim in the future to come’, also as it written in Is 60:19, ‘you will no longer have the sun to light your days and the glow of the moon will no longer illuminate for you, Hashem; G!D Who Is Was and Will Be, will be your eternal light.’

    It is true that technology offers humans many conveniences and much of it is a blessing. It is important to be aware of the shadow side of privilege. Information available today is endless – too often distracting our attention, consciousness, and time. Stress and overwhelm are on the rise. Electricity lights up our dwellings and break awareness of the natural cycles of night and day, cars and planes make travel efficient. Expediency is valued; more, faster, cheaper are “better.” Information and change happen very very quickly. All this, and more, serves to separate humanity from the natural rhythms of Earth resulting in people becoming increasingly isolated from each other, nature, and Spirit. This pattern is self-perpetuating and left alone will continue to spiral out of control.

    Heykhalot literature, early Jewish mysticism, offers Rabbi Yishma’el’s accounts of his journeys into the heavens. He is guided by the angel Metatron; The Holy One of Blessing’s most trusted minister. In these writings Rabbi Yishma’el gives over visions from the inner essence of the heavens that the angel Metatron shared with him. Consider this text from Heykhalot Rabboti (Yalkut haRoeem haG’dolim page 2):

    …The first human and their generation would sit at the opening of the gates of the Garden of Eden to gaze into the patterns and forms of Shekhinah’s glowing light, for Shekhinah’s glowing light travels from one end of the universe to the other… All who absorb this Shekhinah glow – the bees and flies do not go near them, not only that they do not get sick, they do not get stressed, no demons can get to them, and that’s not all, even angels do not rule over them…

    The glow of this Sh’khinah is a cure for what ails humanity.

    What if? What if this light is available here and now and no one can see it?

    Hannukah offers an opportunity to train ourselves to be accustomed to seeing with the first light of Eden. It is true there are multiple ways to cultivate vision as we see from the examples of Hillel and Shammai. Every person is unique and individual. Each one of us has special skills and work to accomplish in this life. So too, training of any kind is best when it considers the qualities and capabilities of the individual. Everyone receives at their own level in their own way.

    Simply, setting an intention creates a shift. Even if you question the potency of the light of Hannukah candles themselves, no doubt there is a benefit to pause and open to light during these dark days and its impact in your own unique way.

    Regardless of whether you light candles according to Hillel, Shammai, both or not at all, Hannukah is an invitation to cultivate your inner vision. The Shammai Academy offers an alternative and valuable way of relating movement and responding to it. Earthly resonance includes ebb and flow, winter and summer, peak and valley, inhale and exhale, gel and sol, and life and death.

    We can use Hannukah for personal reflection. The school of Shammai suggests acceptance of the ebb, the lessening of ability that happens in life. Change happens due to vicissitudes in time; external events, illness, changes as we age. Our personal physical reality will diminish from time to time; it is a natural part of the movement.

    Hannukah’s oil brings the ongoing need for sustainable energy sources into awareness. Fossil fuel, like the temple oil, is limited, valuable and not quickly renewable, if at all. It’s availability is diminishing. Fossil fuel is expensive on many levels. Action is needed before the environment is ruined and oil runs out making no viable options are available. Some say it is already too late. It takes time, intention, and planning to shift the infrastructure to sustainable methods.

    Hannukah offers opportunity to recognize a greater world view. Humans are finite beings living in a finite world. It is, indeed, wondrous to open to magic, mystery, and hope of Divine intervention especially in dark moments. May we each be blessed with what we need when we need it.

    The expansive blessing of the of the single day’s portion of oil miraculously lasting for eight days makes people feel safe, builds excitement, and opens hearts. Simultaneously we can choose to consider the ongoing aspect of diminishment as the Shammai Academy did. The ebb is part of any cycle. Anticipating any loss, by talking with trusted community and developing plans in advance serves to minimize fear and cultivate sustainable comfort, intimacy, ease, and joy.

    A light filled Hannukah to you and yours.

    Ruah Hakodesh* – Prophetic, literally “Holy Spirit”

    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5542-eleazar-ben-judah-ben-kalonymus-of-worms 1173-1238

    The Bnay Yisaskhar

    http://rabbishimon.com/tzadikim/showz.php?p=dinov.htm 1783-1841

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