The legend of Chanukah's miracle as recorded in the Talmud is one of great fascination to young and old. We are told that when the Maccabees entered the Temple after its desecration they discovered one cruse of pure oil sufficient for only one day; lo and behold ,it burned for eight days.
If one understands this story literally, then the nature of the miracle is interpreted within the context of the natural world and its functions. After one day, the oil should have been entirely consumed; that's the way the physical world works. Somehow, the laws of nature were altered or suspended, and the oil burned on.
I would prefer a different approach, one which corresponds to an understanding that is figurative and poetic, and points to the reality of a spiritual world that we can grasp and relate to in an intellectually and emotionally honest way. The child's imagination can mature within us to transcend the literal and touch the intuitive and the spiritual.
In this way, the message of Chanukah adopts a meaning that is unique because it discovers and embraces a truth that reflects our search for the miraculous within our lives and within the context of natural experience.
Imagine the first cup on the menorah with its measure of one day's worth of oil. Before us stretches a period of eight days. Do we view this cup as 7/8's empty or 1/8 full?
Herein I believe, lies the spiritual challenge of Chanukah-do we retreat into hopelessness and anger that often accompanies our experience of scarcity and inadequacy or do we welcome the gift of what we have, however its ostensible meagreness, with the joy, faith, trust and gratitude of witnessing what we have as a gracious act of Hessed, of favor and goodness, bestowed upon us by the Source of All ?
In times of want, when so many are not going to be showered with the material bounty which we have grown accustomed to, perhaps the lesson of the single light of the menorah is to remind us that this modest measure of oil, a symbol of prosperity , the fuel of light and warmth, has the power to awaken our capacity to feel thankful and to sing the praises of the Holy One, and by so doing, to experience again, with elation, the wonders and the marvels of Chanukah.
" Al Hanisim..." For all the miracles, especially the precious little in that one tiny cup, we are filled with gratitude on this day.