Beginning With One Candle

one candleFor the first time in history a people rose up in rebellion as a result of their spiritual life being threatened rather than their physical survival. In the 2nd century BCE, the Syrian- Greek regime of Antiochus sought to pull Jews away from Judaism, with the hopes of assimilating them into the darkness of man centered Hellenism. The Syrian Greek warlord Antiochus outlawed aspects of Jewish observance such as circumcision, celebrating the new month and torah study. In response, a small band of courageous Jews took to the hills of Judea in open revolt against this threat. Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion but in the end he was himself defeated.

Jewish fighters entered the liberated city of Jerusalem in  164 BCE.  and re-dedicated the desecrated Temple  on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. It was at that point during the rekindling of the Menorah  that the miracle of the little jar of oil occurred .The small jar of pure oil that would have sufficed for one day lasted  for eight days  until a new supply of oil could be brought. From that point on, Jews have observed a holiday for eight days in honor both of this historic victory and  of the miracle of the oil . It was the victory of the small group of faithful against the large hordes of the faithless. Miraculously the few overwhelmed the many. Yet the focus of the festival of Chanukah seems to highlight the smaller miracle of the jar of oil.

The Maharal asks the question why such emphasis is put on such a wonderful yet small miracle that should be overshadowed by the victory of the few against the many. The military victory represented the end of spiritual and physical domination while the jar of oil “simply” ensured the continuance of the light. The military victory, the Maharal answers was a great miracle. Yet the source of such a great miracle can usually be confused with military power and tactics. The Divine origins of such a victory can be lost amidst the din of pompous self adulation of the victors.

G-d used the jar of oil as a signature to clarify the author of all miracles.

On Chanukah it is not the Jewish people that were being threatened but rather their connection to their Creator. It was not their physical bodies that was being attacked but rather the “light” within them that was threatened to be extinguished.

“I HaShem have called you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and kept you, and set you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations; “( Isaiah 42:6)

The words in the verse are “ light of the nations (Ohr Goyim) not a light unto the nations( Ohr la-Goyim). That implies that the light will emanate and shine forth whether the vessels are aware or are even worthy of that light .Being aware and being worthy will obviously sweeten the perceived quality of that light. Yet the simple continual existence of these people as a people will be the light that shines through the darkness of the world.

Yet that is the light that the Greek theology and form of thinking was trying to extinguish. One would think , though, that such a Divine declaration implies that the light that emanates from the continued existence could never be extinguished. That would be completely true.

Yet the quality of that “light”.

The Intensity of that “emanation”

The dispersal of that” light “will depend on people making a decision to act and move forward G-d will ensure His plan continues regardless but the pathways of how His plan materializes was given over to the choices of the messengers He has chosen.

When Moshe ( Moses) left his people in despair and escaped to midyan and lives in anonymity for sixty years.

It is only after the age of eighty that he is confronted with the burning bush on Horev, the mountain of G-d. Moshe makes a determined decision to investigate this mystery (Exodus 3:3):

“And Moses said: ‘I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.'”

With that determined step out of anonymity, Moshe receives a clear message that just as this small burning bush was not to be consumed, the people of Israel, his people, were not to be consumed by the fires of slavery, either. Moshe is clearly being told not to lose faith in his people. They are capable of, and destined for, greater things.

It is only after Moshe decides to take a step into destiny that G-d then speaks to him.

And when HaShem saw that he turned aside to see, G-d called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said: Moshe Moshe  .’ And he said: ‘Hinneni –Here I Am” ‘ ( ibid:4)

If Moshe was to be used by G-d in His plan , Moshe first had to take a step.

The Maccabees had to take a step into the plan. The menorah had to be lit even though there was not enough oil. The first candle represented their stepping into the Divine plan.

The festival of Hannuka therefore begins with the lighting of one candle.

May we all learn to begin with one candle and continually strive to go forward towards the eight, (eight representing eternity)  . By so doing may we bring light back into our personal lives and into the darkened and confused world.

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