In 165 B.C.E., immediately following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was in ruins. This spiritual darkness followed a time of war and physical devastation for the Jews in the Holy Land.
But, the darkness did not last.
On Chanukah, we celebrate the miracle of a tiny bit of oil lasting for the required eight days needed to re-dedicate the Temple, as we also remember the miraculous feat of the spiritual and physical victory of a small group of believers over a vast empire.
The main obligation of Chanukah is to light the menorah for eight successive nights; adding an additional candle each night. Then on the eighth and final night, the lights of the Chanukah menorah are all lit and on full display.
One interesting law regarding the Chanukah is that the light of the candles may not be used for any purpose other than proclaiming the miracle of the holiday. That is why we need the extra shamash candle—to do the work of lighting the others. Also, once lit, we cannot use the lighted menorah as a lamp or for extra heat, for instance.
Another tradition is that the menorah should be placed on a windowsill so that others can see it from the outside—thereby, proclaiming the miracle proudly and publicly for all to see.
These traditions supply us with some important lessons. They serve to remind me to value things not for their “usefulness” (what they can “do” for me) but for who or what they are. And, once I do that, I can fully appreciate the beauty, and share the beauty with others.
As we continue to build our Engage community, we might do well to remember these lessons…
Let us help others for the sake of helping others. Let us strengthen our community for the sake of the community itself. Let us enjoy its beautiful traditions. Then, let us proudly and publicly show others how we endeavor to light the darkness. Doing all this, with however much (health, energy, time, money, etc.) we have; always hoping—miracle or not—that it will be enough.