Chanukah: Eternal Story, Eternal Symbol
By Ariella Bracha Waldinger
The festival of Chanukah celebrates the heroic and miraculous victories of our Jewish heroes over the oppressive Greek Empire. It is the dynamic eternal symbol of the Jewish nation, as represented by the Hasmonean priests, fighting with all their might to restore the dignity and spiritual illumination of the Jewish nation. They reached a point where they were no longer willing to stand by and allow the Greeks to outlaw our precious mitzvah observance and way of life. They responded to the Divine calling of the soul within the Jew, to be a light unto the world, even as the world sought to destroy us. The fight was not merely an ideological one fought by a small band of Talmudic scholars, but a fight, against all odds, for the right to worship G-d freely and Jewishly. It was a courageous fight of the spirit for the restoration of our nation’s dedication and commitment to G-ds Holy Torah. It was an enormous manifestation of bravery on the part of the Hasmonean warriors fighting against the mighty Greek army. It ended with a miraculous military victory proving beyond a shadow of a doubt the rightness of the Maccabees’ decision to take up arms against the enemy.
The definitive battle that took place during Chanukah was not instigated by the Greeks, rather it was a reaction of Jews who could no longer stand by and endure the spiritual holocaust. The name Maccabees is an acronym for Mee Chamocha B’Aileem Hashem which means, “Who is as strong as You, G-d?” Their faith in G-d inspired the tremendous courage needed to revolt against the mighty Greek Empire. As a result of their fighting spirit and G-ds Divine intervention, they entered and reclaimed our Holy Temple, where they discovered the cruz of pure oil, bearing the seal of the High Priest, which they used to light the Chanukah menorah.
We celebrate Chanukah and the victory of the Maccabees through lighting candles because light is the most spiritual element. By lighting our Chanukah menorah, just as the Maccabees did, we ignite the sparks of holiness that reside within us and illuminate the darkness of the negative forces that reside within the world. We celebrate the immortality of the Jewish soul and liberate G-dliness from its concealment. Light is not subject to limitations and constantly creates a dynamic powerful energy which represents HaShem’s power.
Since the war against the Greek forces was fought on the soil of our Holy Land, it connects the residents of our land to both our ancient and modern history in a very deep and tangible way. This year, in particular, I am entering into the holiday full of deep gratitude for the Chanukah-like miracles G-d wrought for His nation this summer, during Protective Edge. These colossal contemporary miracles, like the miracles of Chanukah, should increase our pride, elation and thankfulness, for they bring to mind once again, the truth of G-ds Protective Edge and His blessings on His nation in their homeland. The modern day miracles remind us that our life is not our own and that our mission is to fulfill the will of our Creator by reaching out beyond the confines of self absorption and contentment. Just like the Maccabees, who had a readiness for self-sacrifice, we too must be prepared to go above and beyond the status quo and commit to making a difference in the world. G-d teaches us and the Maccabees proved it, that there is no such thing as deciding we have had enough or done enough. There is no giving up, when the honor of Hashem’s name and the sacredness and safety of His nation is on the line.
I see a direct correlation to the eternal story and symbolism of Chanukah and the decision to make Aliyah. The Greeks sought to claim ownership of the Jewish soul and transfer its allegiance to the Greek values and culture. This exact reality is present today outside the land of Israel, where surrounded by foreign culture and foreign G-ds, the Diaspora, representing Greece, robs the Jewish people of their core values, as we see by the rate of assimilation. When a Jew makes Aliyah, he switches his allegiance to the eternal values of the Jewish nation in their divinely ordained homeland. All aspects: physical, spiritual, economic, and social become infused with new light and spirit, as we are put in touch with our Jewish national identity. The Jewish soul, which is described as pure light, can become easily defiled outside its natural habitat. But when it returns home, its inner life force realigns with the light embedded in the Holy Land and the soul like the Chanukkiah, begins to shine more brightly and manifest in greater intensity.
Chanukah is about faith and trust in G-d and so is Aliyah. Chanukah is about courage and so is Aliyah. Chanukah is about igniting your Jewish soul through self sacrifice and commitment and so is Aliyah. Chanukah is about restoring Torah and nationhood to the land and Aliyah is about embracing Torah and nationhood. Chanukah is not only about believing and trusting in G-d, but also taking action to bring about G-ds will. Aliyah is not only about believing and trusting in G-d, but also about turning your beliefs and goals into positive action to do G-ds will. The real secret of Chanukah is going the distance and risking it all for Hashem. Aliyah is the same. The teachings of Chanukah announce to the world, we bow down to no man until G-ds home is restored. Aliyah announces to the world, we choose to be part of restoring G-ds home. Chanukah is all about personal and national triumphs and so is Aliyah. The messages of Chanukah are a force to be reckoned with and so are the messages embedded in the process of making Aliyah. They both represent personal and national renewal and rededication to G-d and the Jewish nation.
Living in G-ds chosen land, we extend our heart, mind and soul into the Jewish realities right before our eyes, especially the miracles and constant stories of Divine Providence. We don’t just read about them in a story or book or newspaper article or even relate to it through music. We physically and emotionally live with them and they reside within us. They are a part of our day to day life as well as the inner landscape of our soul and we feel it in a deep way.
Chanukah, bears great relevance today as we continue to fight the forces of darkness in our biblical homeland. It is easy to understand why it is such a powerfully evocative story as its message of triumph inspires us to have courage, faith and trust in G-d. The miracles of Chanukah and the miracles we witness today should become the object of our constant love, joy and gratitude, as they relate the deep love G-d has for His chosen nation both then and now. We should constantly stand in awe before the forces of G-d who makes all things happen.
This Chaunkah as you light your candles or ignite the oil, take time to celebrate the heroism of the Maccabees of old and the modern heroes and heroines of today: the Israeli soldiers, who died and were injured in Protective Edge, and all the other wars. Pray for those injured in terrorist attacks and those who continue to serve their country and protect us at the risk of their own lives. Honor the courage of the modern day pioneers: those Jews who are making aliyah. Celebrating Chanukah and lighting your Chanukah menorah is the deepest way to illuminate the darkness, as the lights stream out into the expanse of the sky, sharing the message of G-d and Chanukah with the world. May you be inspired to rededicate your own personal temple to G-ds will and nation in His beloved land.
With Love, Ariella Bracha