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Chanukah lights

B”H

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Each day of the eight days of Chanukah, a candle is lit, successively, so that on the first day – one candle is lit, then two candles on the eve of the second day, and so on. Yet, if you look at a menorah designed for Chanukah, there are nine candle holders. (Unless the menorah uses oil with tiny wicks, then there are nine repositories for the oil). The reason for a total of nine, is to have a place, usually in the center of the menorah, for the shamash (servant) candle, that is used to light all of the other candles. This candle is lit first; then, it shares its light with the other candles.

The tradition is reminiscent of the pasuk (verse), “In Thy light do we see light” (Psalm 36:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). H’Shem is the source of life, that bestows light upon us; we are connected, even dependent upon Him for every breathe we take. “For Thou dost light my lamp; the L-RD my G-d doth lighten my darkness” (Psalm 18:29, JPS). At the darkest time of the year, may we hope to be enlightened by H’Shem, by way of His emes (truth), and chesed (mercy), two key components of Chanukah; for His truth led us in the darkness against our enemies; and, through His mercy the few were able to defeat the many.

the Spirit of Chanukah

B”H

27 Kislev 5780

by Tzvi Schnee

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the L-RD of hosts.”

– Zechariah 4:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

The miracle of the oil that lasted eight days, giving light to the Menorah inside of the Temple, not the military victory of the Maccabees (a small group of pious Jewish fighters) over the Syrians is emphasized, as per the ruling of the Sages. We celebrate Chanukah in recognition of G-d’s Spirit enabling us to defeat our enemies, not by our own strength or strategical prowess in battle.

Likewise, in recognition of G-d’s hand in our lives, we may bravely face the day, with Him on our side; yet, at the same time, humbling ourselves before Him, inclusive of accepting His plans for us, replete with an acknowledgment of His guidance. He will not lead us astray; rather, he will lead us into victory time and time again. May we be able to conquer our inner battles, with a little help from Above.

Day Two of Chanukah

B”H

26 Kislev 5780

December 24, 2019

by Tzvi Schnee

On the first night of Chanukah, the shamash (servant) candle is lit first; then, the shamash candle is used to light the first candle, symbolic of the first day of Chanukah. On the second night of Chanukah, the shamash lights two candles. After these have been fully burned, there is a total of five candles, including two shamash candles, that have been lit so far. There are fourty-four candles in a box; so, there should be thirty-nine candles left for the succeeding days of Chanukah.

Who’s counting? I imagine that all serious seekers of meaning in every moment, as well as in all the details of the eight days of Chanukah are counting. The impression of the candles upon the mind’s eye; this remembrance fosters the imprint of the holiday throughout the eight days. Making all of our days count in the eyes of G-d is what matters. A holy remembrance of each day in the book of our lives.

“Then they that feared the L-RD spoke one with another; and the L-RD hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the L-RD, and that thought upon His name.”

– Malachi 3:16, JPS 1917 Tanach

What is meaningful in life will be of lasting value. What may be looked back upon at the end of the day, as something of importance, will not recede readily into the past. Making the most of our time in the morning, before the day’s tasks become a blur, a whirlwind of hectic running from one place to another. A few hours quietly spent in reflection, before the day imposes its burdens upon us. Carefully chosen words, gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), and a constant focus on G-d. “I am ever mindful of the L-rd’s presence” (Psalm 16:8).

“Thou has counted my wanderings; put Thou my tears into Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?”

– Psalm 56:9, JPS 1917 Tanach

Day One of Chanukah

B”H

25 Kislev 5780

December 23, 2019

by Tzvi Schnee

Last night, the eight-candled menorah was lit; two candles, the shamash (servant candle), and the first candle symbolic of the first day of the eight-day miracle. It is as if the light of the seven-candled Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash (Temple), over two thousand years ago, when the second Temple was redeadicated, still burns all over the world in the homes of millions of Jewish people for eight days.

May the inner spiritual light of Chanukah also burn in our heart of hearts, lighting up the way within the darkness of our lives. When the future looked bleak, we triumphed over the enemy. May the same be true today, especially, in regard to the challenges in our lives.

erev Chanukah (1st night)

B”H

Historically, Chanukah commemorates the victory of the Macabbees, a small group of pious Jews, who defeated the invading Syrian army. Yet, the Sages deliberately emphasized the miracle of the oil, instead of the military might of the Macabbees. Apropos of reframing the emphasis of the holiday, the Sages brought forth this pasuk (verse) as a reminder of the help the Jewish people received from G-d, when defending themselves against an army much greater than them: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the L-RD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The miracle of the oil, has to do with the pure olive oil that was used in the Temple to light the seven-candled menorah that rested in the sanctuary. After cleaning up the Temple, that had been ransacked by the Syrian army, only one cruze of this pure oil was found. Regular olive oil could not be used for such a holy purpose as lighting this menorah inside of the sanctuary. Because the cruze of oil was only enough for one day, there would not have been enough time to prepare more oil, to keep the menorah burning on successive days. Yet, a miracle occurred: the single cruze of oil lasted for eight days. That is the reason we light candles for eight days on Chanukah.