Hanukkah 5783 – letter no. 3

It was an incredibly dark era, in which idolaters considered themselves the world’s most enlightened, and torch-bearers of “modern light:” contemporary (Greek) philosophy. However, in actuality, this “light” darkened the world through aggrandizement of the body, Greek philosophy and “modernism.” And thus the Greeks succeeded to darken land after land, place after place. They attempted to do the same when they reached the Land of Israel, and the miniscule nation who lived there. 

To be honest, they partially succeeded. It appeared to many of the Jewish Nation that their eyes were suddenly opened (“…for it was a delight to the eyes…” Gen 3:5-6). “Democracy,” Greek mythology/ philosophy, and a culture obsessed with the body and nudity were innovations, “new light.” But in contrast, there was a small handful of people who believed with strong faith in the God of Israel, His Torah, and His precepts and commandments transmitted through the patriarchs. This is true and faultless faith. They perceived the difference between eternal Jerusalem and “modern” Athens. They were the minority who chose to sacrifice their souls and lives for the sake of true faith. They were unyielding and fought against an army larger and greater than they, when common sense said there was no chance against the massive Greek forces, against the modern empire and its troops armed with the best and highly innovative weapons and modern war strategies of the time, who had succeeded in conquering country after country, nation after nation, therefore becoming the biggest empire in the world.

Precisely in the Land of Israel, a few believers in the God of Israel – with no combat experience or elaborate equipment, equipped only with great faith and the Word of the Creator, the Lord of all the earth – fought for the continuation of the promise given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Against all the odds, they won by a miracle and the power of faith. This small handful of believers triumphed and drove the Greeks out of the Promised Land.

The victory was not contingent on the physical prowess of those believers determined to follow God’s ways, rather the Lord of all the earth performed this miracle for the sake of the nations of the world, “The Lord has revealed His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Is 52:10)

The enemy was expelled, but the impurity remained. That is to say, the victory was incomplete, there still was cleaning and purification to be done. After the Temple’s cleaning, they had to light the candelabra, the Jewish people’s eternal symbol of the light which illuminates the Holy Place and us. They could light the candelabra, but the oil was tainted. There was oil, but it was impure (maybe clean, but not pure). Those believers did not give up, and were unwilling to wait until the new oil was ready. What did they do??? They searched! They did not compromise.

Whoever searches will find. They made their discovery in an unexpected corner hidden from view (apparently a believer in the God of Israel hid it there). This small miracle of the oil’s discovery is what we celebrate for eight days, not the great miracle of victory in battle.

True, we Jews mention the miracle of the military triumph in our prayers, and express gratitude for it each day. But the real celebration is the discovery of the small jar of oil, the desire to search and find the pure. This is the reason we celebrate, because of searching with faith and hope to find.  

My beloved friends, we must celebrate the discovery of pure oil hidden within us with faith. It’s vital that we search and not throw up our hands in despair. 

And then the true and pure light which hastens the final redemption will shine within us.

(Alongside of this remember: not everything that shimmers, radiates, and shines is true).

The eight days of Hanukkah are eight dark nights when we light an additional candle each subsequent night. We add another candle to yesterday’s light – one more candle than the previous night – and add another drop of faith, and one more drop of hope. 

According to the Jewish roots we do not have permission to derive benefit from the candles, just to look at them alone! 

We may observe and contemplate them, and imagine the original light, the light of the candelabra in the Temple.

We may contemplate and pray that the final redemption will arrive and come about “…for we are anticipating it…” and the King of all kings and Shechinah (Divine Presence) will return to Jerusalem the throne.  

As long as the candle is alight (faith), there is hope, and it’s possible to repair the repairable. That candle, that dancing flame, is the light within me, and I myself dance before my Creator.

For it is said: “…the soul of man is the candle of the Lord…” (Prov 27:20). I, and those with me (“Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!”) will dance, rejoice, and practice together until… (you fill in the blank). 

Only this way can we make the following blessings:

  1. Who commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights… (the dedication of the House).
  2. Who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time… there is a real possibility!
  3. Who has enlivened us through faith, and brought us to this time, full of faith and hope.
  4. Those same miracles that were then, the triumph of light over darkness, even though there are still signs of darkness here and there. 

And there is still hope that somewhere within our soul we will find pure oil, which will kindle in us the light of true faith.

I wish that it only might be!

Be blessed from on high, and may light shine on each one of you. 

The light from Zion and Jerusalem,


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