Hanukah 2012.6

(I post this each year, as a guide to how the candles or lights of the menorah/hanukiah are lit correctly, according to tradition.)

The fact that Hanukah lasts eight nights to commemorate the miracle of one day’s worth of oil burning for eight nights is amply written about.

Likewise, the fact that the procedure for lighting the lights represents a compromise between the opinions of two opposing rabbinic schools — Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai.

Yet, I rarely see the ramifications of the miracle itself spoken or written about in the depth it deserves.

Simply put, we would expect the oil to burn only for its allotted time, after which the light(s) would go out. Instead, the oil continued to burn and burn. The very mention of it fills me with awe.

That is what Hanukah represents:

The victory of the awesome over the expected.

It’s a “casual” miracle, in some ways. No angelic choirs, no seas parting. In fact, only a handful of people — the kohanim — personally witnessed it.

Yet, its message has pervaded Jewish history.

There are precedents in TaNaCh for the replenishment of the oil.

“Then a man came from Baal Shalisha, and brought [Elisha the prophet] bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley bread, and newly ripened grain in his knapsack. And [Elisha] said, ‘Give it to the people, that they may eat.’ But his servant said, ‘What? Shall I set this before one hundred men?’ [Elisha] said again, ‘Give it to the people, that they may eat; for thus says the Lord: ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’ So he set it before them; and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.” [1]

Elisha, confident that God could — and would — provide, stated his confidence clearly. That was his affirmation or affirmative prayer; his declaration. Its outcome was the potentially endless replenishment of the food.

Going back even further, to the time of Mosheh:

“Mosheh saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.” [2]

In this case, the spiritual light of the angel appeared to Mosheh as a fire that did not consume the bush. At that moment, perceiving that material reality is only a finite presentation of all that truly exists, he was struck with awe and became the servant of God.

That is what the “casual” Hanukah miracle tells us:

There is infinitely more to reality than the appearance of the physical, material world suggests and the Divine — constantly surrounding, creating and pervading the material — can, does and will provide in infinite measure whatever is for our good.

That belief was the affirmation of the kohanim at their moment of relighting the Temple menorah with only one jar of usable oil.

We join our minds, hearts and souls with them, and with Mosheh and Elisha, when we affirm the same, while lighting our own “hanukiot” or “menorot.”

Let us then look at the problems of this world as finite, and affirm the power of God — present, infinite and overwhelming — as healing them all.

It’s the victory of the awesome over the expected.

Hag Hanukah Sameach


[1] 2 Kings 4:42-44

[2] Shemoth/Ex. 3:2