Chanukah, unlike the Yomim Tovim, seemingly requires very little of us; we are not asked to refrain from most of our daily tasks. We achieve this zeman’s spiritual goal by lighting the menorah on each of the eight nights of Chanukah, at the appointed time, and in so doing we declare the ability of the compassionate Creator to rekindle our (neshamos) souls even as we experience the depths of galus.
What is the theological “technology” that enables a relatively small flame that burns only for a brief period of time to light up the “spiritual darkness” that envelops the world?
It is well documented that light and sound can have a profound effect upon the human psyche, affecting health and mood. Alternative medical practitioners, utilizing these principles, have developed light-wave and sound-wave therapies which are growing in popularity. It is claimed that these therapies allow the body and psyche to “re-balance and realign” themselves.
To us, as Jews this should come as no surprise as we have been blessed with the holy Torah that has guided us with the inner secret wisdom of spiritual rectification at its source– at the level of soul. Thus we begin our year on Rosh Hashanah with a unique (mitzvah) commandment in that through listening to the sounds of the shofar we become spiritually retuned in harmony with the Creator’s “blueprint”, in plan and purpose, for our neshamas. This supernal “sound wave therapy” helps to guide us in our spiritual journey throughout the New Year.
Due to the harshness of the long galus, Chazal have added to our “prescriptions” of spiritual antidotes, a subtle but highly effective “lazer light wave therapy.” The precisely directed (neiros) lights of Chanukah possess the inner illuminating power to dispel even the most obscurant darkness.
Now let us examine more closely the flames of Chanukah and their profound symbolism. Chanukah represents a bonding of the spiritual with the physical, as seen through the menorah holding the oil and the wick as the flame hovers above. What is the significance of the flame always ascending upward above the wick, the oil and the menorah? This is a physical expression of a spiritual truth that reveals the relationship between the neshama and the (guf) body. Even as the flame hovers over the wick and the oil unlocking their energy bringing forth a radiant light into this world, so too the neshamah infuses the body with lofty goals that reveal spiritual treasures previously hidden within the creation. Without the fuel, the wick and the menorah – the flame would not exist but without the flame – the fuel, wick and menorah would remain inert elements.
To what does this compare? When Moshe Rabbanu ascended to Heaven to receive the Torah, the angels protested saying that the Torah should remain in Heaven. Moshe responded that the mitzvoth of the Torah could only be fulfilled in this world by human beings that were given (bechira) freedom of choice. This means that down here on earth there are certain “spiritually conducive atmospheric conditions” that don’t exist in the heavens.
Through this mitzvah of kindling the light of Chanukah beginning from 25th of Kislev, (which is alluded to by the 25th word of the Torah being – ohr – light) we our privileged to tap into the “light from Above” – the (Ohr ha-Ganuz) hidden light. This supernal beneficence at this auspicious time brings with it insight, clarity and purification.
Oh yes, before we conclude, let us also not forget to enjoy and appreciate the latkes or other fried foods that will be served on Chanukah. This custom celebrates the role of the flask of pure oil found in the restored Bais Hamikdash. Shemen zayis symbolizes wisdom. Perhaps by eating these foods fried in shemen zayis on Chanukah we are simultaneously proclaiming, as well as benefiting from the plentiful flow of Divine wisdom that is available at this auspicious time.
(Shemen zayis is the desirable component of one of the praised seven fruits of Eretz Israel (shivas ha-minim). It is obtained by squeezing the olives with intense pressure. A well know (moshal) example compares the potential within each Jew to the untapped value with the olive, in that our best achievements are often produced when we are under pressure to meet a challenge.) May our eight day dosage of ner Chanukah’s “supernal illumination” revitalize us, helping to dispel the “darkness” of (galus) the exile and ushering in the long awaited final (Geulah) redemption, shining in radiant splendor, soon in our days.
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