Every year the dominant theme of Chanukah is the light we add to the world, especially in its darkest days. Every rabbi, myself included, gives the same speeches/lessons year after year. While we point out that the paragraph, Al HaNissim, we add to the daily prayer services mentions only the military victory and rededication of the Temple, we also emphasize that the only mitzva (commandment) assigned to us is lighting candles.
This year, largely due to, I believe, the political/security/diplomatic situations Israel is currently embroiled in, I’ve noticed a number of articles and sermons “debunking the myth” that Chanukah is all about the candles and the light. Rather, they emphasize the defeat of assimilationists, reasserting our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and our reclaiming and re-activating the Holy Temple. The point being that we need to do all these things as well as merely light a few candles..
Of course all these goals are essential to our survival, both physically and in the spiritual sense. But these challenges have always been with us (substitute the more general “Return to Zion” for the limited “reassert our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria). In fact, all three are explicitly included in our thrice-daily prayer, recited for almost two millennia.
My question is why, this year, the increased urgency? And more importantly, why the de-emphasis of the miracle of light which we renew each year with our own candle lighting?
As a people, and some of our leaders are beginning to voice this, are frustrated. As a goal remains distant, it’s a lot easier to be patient about it. But we are, after so many years of exile, tantalizingly close to success. Very close to half the world’s Jews now live in Eretz Yisrael and we have sovereignty over it, even if our current political leaders decline to assert that sovereignty to parts of it. Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount, is an integral part of united Jerusalem, our eternal capital, even though our own government prevents us from even praying on it. A renewed Bet HaMikdash, Holy Temple, seems so close we can taste it. We’re just a few steps away and, thus, it’s even more painful frustrating to remain denied.
But why, davka (specifically) has this longing heated up for Chanukah 5775?
When functioning, the Bet HaMikdash is the main portal through which all the life-giving energy of the world enters our material realm. This energy is called אור, Or, light. We are charged with bringing this pure light/life into the entire world. When the Bet HaMikdash will once again function in it’s place, the entire world, and not merely the Jewish people, will bathe in infinite light.
Especially when this reality is so close we can almost grasp it, our small candles can seem so feeble, our efforts so insignificant.
An important lesson for, davka, specifically, this Chanukah is that as much as we long for the “real thing”, the “grown up” light, our tiny candles, faint as they are, actually do bring this very same infinite light into our world. They are, indeed, harder to see and it requires a much deeper exercise of אמונה (Emunah), “belief”, and בטחון (Bitachon), trust, to experience the true power of our little candles. While we long to bring even more light into the world, and one day, במהרה בימינו (B’m’heyra B’Yamenu), speedily in our days, we will have that honor, we nevertheless do bring that same light, albeit in a slightly attenuated form, each night of Chanukah.
חג אורים שמח