The Miracle of Chanukah – The Real “Reason for the Season”

| | |

It’s the winter holiday season again in the world. For most, Chanukah is simply a blip on the radar. For others, it’s a Jewish holiday that’s like the other days (that one with the man in the red suit, for example). It seems that a majority fit in this second category.

Then there’s another group that looks to history to understand the present holiday, and from there we have an entirely different concept behind this holiday.

Chanukah is the Season of Joy, and War

The Sfas Emes, a chassidishe commentator, writes extensively on the matter.

On Chanukah the destruction of the anti-Torah elements – of the Grecian emphasis on physical beauty, the antithesis of Torah – in effect led to a rededication of the world.

Sfas Emes

What becomes clear when reading spiritually insightful material on the holiday, as well as looking to history, is that Chanukah, the “Festival of Light,” as some call it, is not really about the oil. Yes, there is the miracle of the oil, but the miracle was only a symbol to confirm the true miracle that occurred – the resounding military of the Greek Empire.

If we look at Chanukah in that lens, then the closest American holiday that resembles this season would be Independence Day. There are many correlations:

  • Underdog story – small against the large.
  • Freedom to express religion.
  • A fight for local governance.
  • Traditional warfare vs. guerrilla tactics.
  • A war on imperialism.

This is clearly evident, as even the special prayers recited during the holiday of Chanukah are about the fight against the Greeks, not lighting the candle (with the exception of the candle-lighting blessing).

Chanukah is not about lighting a menorah. That may be our zicharon for the chag, but the ikar is the rebellion against anti-Torah values and fighting against the armies of Amalek to secure a religious zealous Jewish future.

Why Hasn’t Chanukah Been Cancelled Yet?

It is a stark reality that the values and ideals of Chanukah, and that of the Jewish faith, are contradictory to the secular world at large today. And yet it’s not cancelled. Perhaps it’s because many misunderstand the holiday. They view it as “shining bright” and “increasing light” in the world. That is a correct statement, but how it’s truly understood is the difference: we shine bright with learning of Torah and rejecting the secular world and we increase light by ridding ourselves of the schmutz called Americana, Grecian, Roman, Egyptian, etc.

As a raya, Chanukah follows the Jewish calendar, which sometimes falls out in December and sometimes in November. It’s a great reminder that frum Jews should not be celebrating any secular, dare we say, goyish, holidays. Jews should be celebrating Jewish holidays, on Jewish dates. Maybe it’s harsh for some, but the holiday of Chanukah clearly recalls this, as does Pesach, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc.

The message of Chanukah can be found in the literal translation fo the composite meaning of these words, חנו כה, stay here – remain and cling to the traditional teaching of Torah. Do not deviate from the accepted practices even if your rational mind cannot grasp every aspect…

Sfas Emes

As we continue to live in galus, this exile of assimilation, may we find the koach and inspiration of this Chanukah miracle, the only valid reason for the season, to fortify our observance and keep true to Torah. May we be like the Maccabees, who fought with viligence and diligence to maintain Torah observance and banish non-Torah ideals.

So, may you have a freiliche Chanukah, one filled with simcha, chalav, latkes, and mitzvos, as we cling to Torah and renew our energies to keep the world powered for another year, counting down to Moshiach…