Sunday, December 14, 2008


The key artifact of CHANUKAH is light, a candle or cruse of oil, NER ,in Hebrew. An essential characteristic of the act of kindling is its complete non-utility. Typically, lights are kindled at night to allow for the continuation of human activity. On Hannukah, however, activity and utility are suspended in the face of a greater miracle of human existence, namely the capacity and blessing inherent in the natural response of human perception, looking and seeing, not so much with the eyes as with the heart and soul.
“We may not put them-the lights-to ordinary use but are to look at them” to be reminded of the miracle of existence.
If one were to reverse the letters of light in Hebrew-NR-the word spelled would be RN- the root word for “to sing.”
Light is a silent song; indeed , a dance of color and luminescence.
Gazing upon a little light flickering in the darkness is a gesture of profound spiritual significance. We are one with the tiny flame, sparks sprinting into the shadows , the soul’s inextinguishable energy, its refusal to die .
Is it any wonder that Jewish law decided that the correct pattern of candle lighting should correspond to the School of Hillel, and not Shammai, to begin with one and end with eight? Shammai's approach, to begin with eight lights and descend to one on the last day represents a diminution of the human spirit which is everlasting and boundless.
We dare not decrease holiness in our lives; to use the light for a purpose other than its own reflection is to distract our attention from life’s holiness, to decrease the intrinsic sacredness of light and all the beauty and blessing it alludes to.
And it is not the quantity of light that counts. We are told that a large light ie. a bonfire does not qualify as Hannukah light. Perhaps the smallness is what gives Hannukah its power. The armies of Greece were large, mighty, over- powering. Israel was small, physically feeble, with only the wee flame of faith in the power of the human spirit. Therein, lies its triumph.

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