The ultimate “Eight Step” program

by | Nov 21, 2013 | Torah Thought

It is always great to be able to write about one of the greatest and most powerful holidays in our calendar.

Given the time of year, I am obviously referring to Chanukah. Some find Chanukah powerful because of the military victory that we recall and yet we also all tell the story of the famous miracle that occurred with the oil. Most Jewish homes in the world mark this time of year in some way and recall some aspect of the historical power of this great holiday. There is another perspective, however, that I would like to share about Chanukah that will hopefully change the way we all practice this potentially life changing time of year.

Chanukah is when we bring light into our homes. It is a time when we remember what we had a long time ago and we aspire to once again be able to see. We long for the light of the menorah in the holy Temple in Jerusalem and we pray three times a day for its speedy return. Our sages teach us that when you put two candles together they become one light and the mystical reason why this occurs is because the light of this world all exists because of the mystical “light” of the spiritual universe. When we light the Chanukah candles we are tapping into that “light” and we are bringing some of it into our homes. When we put the candles, or the oil, into our menorah we are mentally placing a priority to our illustrious history, our unique spiritual power as Jews, and bringing the miracle into our lives at that moment.

Of course, there is the alternative. The sad alternative is to do the very thing that we battled against in the days of the Maccabees. We could become part of Greek society to the extent that the light of the menorah and the menorah itself is a religious symbol that we gather around while exchanging gifts and eating oily potato pancakes. We could all gather around the menorah, eat merrily and open presents, or we could take the requisite time to contemplate the power of the moment. The first night’s light pales in comparison to the light of two candles, which is only multiplied on the third night and so on until we reach the pinnacle of the eighth, magical night. Eight always symbolizes that which is beyond the obvious and physical and transcends to our most passionate and secret desires— the ultimate level of accomplishment, i.e. spiritual greatness. If we allow the light of Chanukah to push us to transcendence by examining the very motives that we have for lighting the lights to begin with, then we can reach spiritual goals never before imaginable in our lives. This is the power of Chanukah.

This year do not let your Chanukah experience be like it has been in the past. Each night think of some aspect of your personality or character that can be improved. Consider an area of your life that is engulfed in western, or “Greek” philosophy and transform it to being in line with Jewish, spiritual achievement. We all have the potential to reach amazing spiritual heights. Chanukah is the time for self-discovery and growth. It is the ultimate “eight step program.”

—Rabbi Gershon Litt, Norfolk Kollel.