One of the joys of working for a Jewish organization is having lunch and learns about the holidays. We had one before Chanukah which reshaped my entire celebration.
The second verse of the Torah says, “And the land was desolate and void and darkness was on the face of the deep.” The Mishnah tells us that these four descriptions reflect the four great exiles of the Jewish people. Desolate and void refers to the Babylonian and Persian exiles which run together just as the Hebrew phrase “tohu v’vohu “ they parallel. These exiles were brief but very physical. Their end is celebrated by Purim. Darkness refers to the Grecian exile, which was a spiritually dark time in our history. Its end is celebrated by Chanukah. Deep refers to the Roman exile we remain in today. (IYH, there will be a new holiday to celebrate its end too!)
While Purim has many mitzvot associated with it: mischloach manot, reading megillat Esther, giving tzedekah and having festive meals – Chanukah has just one: lighting the Chanukiah.
We have just one thing to do for these eight days: To bring light into the darkness.
The chanukiah allows us to let our Judaism shine for all to see. To take a moment year after year to remind ourselves that Judaism is a unique and wonderful life path. To reflect upon how that makes us different from the masses. To stand up and embrace that, rather than to blend in. To stand up and not assimilate, just as our ancestors the Maccabees did. After all, “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle,” but when a candle burns out, light is lost.
This is what the holiday is all about, lighting for the sake of the light. To add a little glimmer of hope and light into the world. This year, I took time to appreciate the light and the fact that it alone was the focus of the holiday. One whole week with just one small task each night to really commemorate this important moment in history. Shining our light into the darkness that surrounds us.