Chanukkah also known as The festival of lights is an eight-day celebration beginning on the evening of the 25th of Kislev which is always four days before the new moon, the darkest night of the month.
We are celebrating two things on the surface: The miracle of one days supply of oil lasting for eight and the victory of the Jewish freedom fighters over the Syrian-Greek forces that tried to wipe out Judaism in the second century.
But there’s something much deeper going on beneath the surface. Why do we light a menorah?
In the beginning of creation, the light that the almighty created was so bright that it gave people such clarity they could see from one end of the world to the other. G-d then hid this light away for the righteous in the world to come. This light of G-odliness gave spiritual awareness, hence why on Shabbat, the 7th day of the week, the only day when the light was not retracted, G-d allowed the flow of divine light to penetrate the universe. We have this time to plug out of the physical and plug into a higher, spiritual awareness that brings us closer to our creator.
When Aahron, the high priest lit the menorah in The Beis HaMikdash, it was symbolic of that original light, just like the menorah in the temple had seven branches so too does our soul have seven ‘powers’ called middot – Chesed, Gevurah, TIferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchus. Each of these attributes represents a different character trait we posses that truly reflects G-ds image. When Aahron lit the menorah he was igniting a spark within the soul of every Jewish person the desire to do these seven middot, to bring us closer to our G-dly image.
The midrash tells us that a fetus in the womb ‘has a candle on its head’ meaning the soul is so pure and has such clarity of the almighty and the spiritual realms but when we are born our soul becomes incorporated into this physical world where our divine spark can become dim and its illumination hidden. It is our job to battle this spiritual war within all of us and kindle the flame that blazes brightly bringing us another level closer to G-d and flooding the darkness of this world with our light.
This is why it was the descendants of Aahron – The Priests that served in The Beis Hamikdash that were the ones to defeat the Syrian-Greek forces because it was not a fight for territory or to kill the physical, it was a fight to kill the spiritual, to kill our Judaism.
The soul of man is described as the lamp of G-d because we have the power to transcend the physical and generate light with every mitzvah we do and live a life guided by the paths that allow the transcendental/Divine energy to enter into our material world.
Lastly we see in Lecha Dodi it is written ‘Sof ma’aseh bemachshavah techilah’ – The end deed emerges with the first thought. The first thought is the prayer that follows candle lighting – the degree to which our physical enjoyment is goes hand in hand with our spiritual concentration at candle lighting.
Happy Hanukkah and Shabbat Shalom!
Gemma Klatzko and the Shabbat.com team