Are you ready for Chanukah?
Chanukah seems simple enough: We light the Menorah, eat some latkes and play some Dreidel; then add gifts and a family get-together to round off your Holiday.
Actually, it’s much richer, and more complex, than that simple equation.
Take the Menorah, the shedding of illumination. What does that mean? By its Dictionary definition, to ‘illuminate’ means to cast light on something, as kindling a Chanukah Menorah illuminates a dark room.
But, illumination also means to brighten, in the sense that a smile brightens your loved one’s mood.
It means to clarify, in the sense that an insightful statement can resolve your friend’s scattered state of mind.
It means to ignite, in the sense that an inspiring word will spark your co-worker’s soul.
It means to enlighten, in the sense that finding purpose will illuminate your life, by dispelling the dark shadows of meaninglessness.
It means to make resplendent, in the sense that nurturing your spousal relationship will make its beauty shine in your life.
So illumination is a lot more than striking a match. It’s about connecting with transcendence, beauty and clarity.
And that’s what Chanukah is all about. The Hellenists had tried to gut Judaism of its ‘G-d element’; they permitted ‘rational’ Jewish practices, but forbade Divinity as part of the equation. But the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) understood that this struck at the soul of Judaism, and gutted the very rituals they ostensibly allowed. If one sees the world as an inherently meaningless sphere hurtling through space, then life is inherently meaningless, no matter what rituals one follows.
The Hasmoneans knew that G-d and Torah would bring Holiness to their lives, clarity to their quandaries, spark to their souls, and purpose to their worldly journeys. They knew that G-d is the indispensable ingredient for a genuine life of beauty.
The Hasmoneans also set the bar for future Chanukah celebrations. Brightening your living room is relatively easy illumination to accomplish. But achieving the more profound illumination, finding Higher Light and Connection, is more complicated than striking a match. It takes advance soul-searching and preparation.
So: Are we ready?