There is so much beauty to this holiday. Children playing dreidel, parents giving Chanukah gelt, the special feeling of pride when seeing a large menorah in public, and of course families sitting around the Menorah listening to the messages the candles tell us.
Like every aspect of Torah and our sacred tradition, the story of Chanukah is not just something of the past. Its lessons and message are to be relived anew each year. The story of Chanukah brings with it so many wonderful lessons and authentic inspiration for our life today.
So I want to share one story the Chanukah candles told me, and perhaps as you light your Menorah this year, they will tell you the same.
It starts with the Greeks and their battle against the Jews. Their fight wasn’t primarily one of military conquest. Nor was it only the attempt to stop the Jews from practising their traditions. In fact, the Greeks were fine if we studied Torah. But they wanted us to treat it as any human wisdom. Not G-d’s wisdom. They could even accept the Jews lighting the Menorah. After all, every culture had its own unique practices. But they could not accept our insistence that these were G-d given and sacred acts, and that the Menorah needed to be kindled with a special pure and holy oil.
So the Greeks “defiled” the oil supplies in the Temple. And when the Jews returned to Jerusalem and wanted to begin worship again in the Holy Temple, they couldn’t find any pure oil left. But after an exhaustive search, we eventually uncovered one cruze of oil that remained untouched, holy and pure. This was used to begin rekindling the Menorah.
In our personal lives too, we each have that one cruze of oil that remains constantly pure. Despite the ups and downs of life, the spiritual, emotional and material challenges we each face, and no matter how distant and despondent we may feel at times - we will always have that one cruze of oil, the essence of our soul, which remains holy, connected and sacred.
As soon as we find it, we can rekindle our Menorah, and begin shining brightly again.
This has a special meaning to us living in South Dakota. You may be the only Jew in your grade, and even in your entire school. You may be the only Jew in your company. You may be only one of a handful of people in your neighborhood lighting a Menorah. Maybe even the only one in your entire city. But you too, are an equally important member of the Jewish community. You too must ignite your spark and shine far and wide.
And like those Chanukah lights, we each need to increase, on a daily basis, never being satisfied with our prior accomplishments of Torah and Mitzvahs.
Best wishes for a Happy Happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.