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 Chanukah: "What light! What light!"

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daniel eliezer

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Posts : 82
Join date : 2011-12-01
Location : Beit El, Israel

PostSubject: Chanukah: "What light! What light!"   Tue Dec 23, 2014 9:02 am

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *
Tonight is the Eighth and last night/day of Chanukah (or Hanukkah and there're even more ways of spelling it in English), the night on which we light all the lamps or candles in the Menorah (or Chanukiya). The Eighth night/day is not simply the culmination, i.e. 1,2,3...8, but the outright fulfillment of all that Chanukah is. It is referred to as 'זאת חנוכה' – Zos (or Zot) Chanuka, meaning, 'THIS is Chanukah'. It too much to explain, I'm not even sure doing so would be worth the effort, but thankfully we can capture a  genuine taste of it with a wonderful story.

Regarding what follows, the first three paragraphs here refer to the 'Al HaNissim' prayer, which is the special prayer we all add to the Amidah (Shemoneh Esrei) for Chanukah, and in that the beginning paragraphs are a touch technical it's permissible to skip down to the 4th paragraph which begins, “Last year...” From that point on it will all be readable, hopefully understandable, whether a little or a lot, and blessedly enjoyable. I actually wrote this 10 Chanukahs ago, and the story contained within is not merely a favorite story but a very precious memory indeed.

“What light! What light!”

What we don’t say is ‘in the world’ or ‘in this world’ or ‘in our world’. We say “in Your world”, i.e. upstairs in Your [God’s] world.

We’re talking about the additional prayer that we say on Chanukah, ‘Al HaNissim’ – for the miracles. We say, “u’lcha asita shem gadol v’kadosh b’olamecha” – for Yourself [God] You made a great and sanctified name in Your world. And skipping a little we come to “bau b’necha l’dvir beitecha u’fanu et haikalecha, v’taharu et mikdashecha, v’hidlichu nerot b’hatzrot kadshecha” – Your children came to the portal of Your residence and evacuated [and cleaned] Your chamber and purified Your sanctuary and lit lights in Your Holy courtyard.

Where’d they do this? The suffix of every noun is the second person singular, possessive ending: not ‘a’ residence, ‘a’ chamber, ‘a’ sanctuary, ‘a’ courtyard, but ‘Your’ residence, ‘Your chamber, ‘Your’ sanctuary, ‘Your’ courtyard. Not only here, down below, but also above – in Your world. According to the words of the prayer, we - Bnei Yisrael [Children of Israel] - entered God’s sanctuary above and prepared it and lit lamps inside. Who has the ability to bring light to God? – Am Yisrael! Gevaldt!

Last year, before lighting the Chanukah Lights on the last night of Chanukah, I asked my children, “when lighting the Chanukah lamps, what, specifically, is the mitzvah?” The answer, of course, is ‘ish u’beito – literally: a man and his home, i.e. his wife and family. Pointing at the lamp that I had lit on the first night, I then counted off the lamps, not using numbers but, instead, using the names of our children: Binyamin, Na’amah, Ayelet, Rena, Yonaton, Reut, Elisha – exactly seven, and when I got to the eighth lamp I said, “ish u’beito.” The Chanukah Menorah in its fullness is ‘ish u’beito’ – a man and his family (and for us it works mathematically, too).

Continuing, I told them what they already knew, “that the oil and light of the lamp are ‘Kadosh’ – Holy”, but, I asked them, “what does ‘Kadosh’ mean?” Their answers were correct, but, I explained, there’s no need to look for sophisticated or complicated answers. In its utter simplicity and deepest truth, ‘Kadosh’ means that it belongs to God. The light and the lamps that we light on Chanukah literally belong to God. God’s light is filling our homes.

The mitzvah of lighting Chanukah Lights came in the aftermath of our defeating the Greeks. This magnificent victory, however, was, in equal measure, an enormous dilemma in determining what was the true significance of the victory. Was it really a genuine and legitimate uprising against religious suppression or was it a power struggle disguised as the previous or was it something else? The rabbis of the time struggled to come to terms with what motivated the Maccabees. The status of Chanukah as a Holy Day wasn’t immediately established then and there. The Gemara [Shabbos 22b] teaches us that it wasn’t until a “another year” that the status of Holy Day was given to Chanukah.

Truthfully, however, even the Maccabees had to question their own motivations. We’ve all experienced that feeling of truly doing something for God – something where we are absolutely convinced of the purity of our intentions, but nevertheless there are always so many other thoughts and things that crop up to interfere with and diminish what we are doing. The other side is just not going to let us do anything with absolute purity without doing its best to prevent it or corrupt it. Despite the best of our intentions, doubt comes along to make us question exactly what we did and why. And in the case of outright warfare and violence, with all its built in and necessary deception and manipulation, how much more so?

Not only that, but the Maccabees didn’t wait to purify the Menorah that was used in the Beit HaMikdash (Temple). They didn’t wait for a perfect, exquisite vessel in which to light the sacred oil to make Holy light. They used plain, simple, run-of-the-mill vessels to light God’s Holy light. Is it possible that a less-than-sacred vessel could contain God’s Holy light?! Isn’t that desecration? Doesn’t such desecration teach us that they weren’t pursuing true Holiness?

That, to our great blessing, is the miracle of Hanukah. In the miracle of Chanukah, the miracle of creating light without consuming oil, God literally revealed to everyone - rabbis, Maccabees, Jews, and world alike - that what had been done was done for God. Even simple vessels that don’t seem to have the ultimate of exquisiteness and purity, these simple vessels are capable of radiating exquisitely Holy light!

And just as it was then, when God sanctified the actions and lives of the Maccabees, so, too, today is it our desire. In our own personal lives we, too, want God to make some public acknowledgement of what our intentions truly are and to let us see that ‘our simple vessels’, too, contain Holy light.

The Holy One, Blessed be He, does do it. He really does. He does it by giving us children. The substance of the menorah is oil, and it’s purpose is for producing light, and so too we are the substance for the light that is our children. Children are Holy lights who proclaim to the world just how much we have brought light to God’s world below and above.

I was blessed to attend a wedding this week on the second night of Chanukah. It was a wedding of Yemenites and Ashkenazim.  During the early dancing, I noticed a young Yemenite boy sitting at a table clearly enjoying himself but not dancing. He was perhaps 9 or so, a touch pudgy, with jet-black hair and eyes, and a very sweet smile and demeanor.

Grabbing his hands, I said, “Nu! Let’s dance”, but he resisted my efforts. Smiling, I tugged a little more firmly, and he tugged back just as much. I pulled harder and he pulled harder but he wasn’t fighting me; he was just being a combination of reluctant, bashful, and a little bit of ‘convince me’. I leaned towards him asking, “The chatan’s [groom] your cousin?” and he replied, “Yes.” “What”, I exclaimed, “you don’t want to dance with the chatan?!” His resistance dropped, and he followed me by the hand to the dancing.

Placing him in front of me in the circle, we went around and around with everyone else for several minutes, until suddenly I saw that the chatan was dancing in the innermost circle with his younger cousins. Grasping his shoulder, I steered him through the circles of dancers that were separating us from the inside, and that was the last I saw of him…

…until some half-hour later. At that point, where a few of us were free-form dancing on the outside of the circles, this little boy materialized. He was approaching me and while doing so looking at me…his face a mixture of awe and adoration. He clearly wanted to join us, so I reached for his hand to include him in our dancing, and it was then that I saw his eyes.

At the table, when we had played tug-of-war, his eyes were the lively, smiling eyes of a sweet, young, and happy boy enjoying himself. Now they had changed immensely. They were windows, picture windows…portals even…to his neshamah [soul: innermost being]. They were glowingly alive and bottomless, clearly lit up from inside by some incredibly deep light.

I had only wanted to have him join in the dancing and simcha [joy] and be part of his family, and that was the total extent of my efforts. But when I’d pushed him inside to the center of the dancers to be with family, I’d pushed him right into the heart of the simcha. With the openness of youth he felt it, and he just opened himself to it and let himself flow.

What light! What light!

Chanukah Sameach – Happy Chanukah

Daniel Eliezer
Rosh Chodesh Tevet 5775
*         *         *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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