Weekly MMM – Foundations of Hanukkah
I have Hanukkah meditations that I’ve shared in various ways over the years, and this year I’d like to use them to explore more deeply the foundational themes of Hanukkah.
One of the mystical points of year that’s approximately a third of the way between Rosh Hashanah and the end of Pesach. This is significant, especially put together with the understanding, as taught by the Holy Arizal, that Rosh Hashanah is the conception, the impregnation of the New Year, and the end of Pesach is the birth, the culmination of that pregnancy.
This puts Hanukkah in a shortened time frame, like the time during which a woman would come to realize she’s pregnant. During the first third of her pregnancy she may get along without it being noticed. But, from that point on, it’s obvious that she’s pregnant.
What does this have to do with us, and the spiritual work in our lives? It’s the same type of work in our spiritual lives, our Sages tell us. It’s like a pregnancy for us, asking, “what is our fate, unfolding for us in this year?”
It’s helpful to do an inventory and explore our goals and aspirations for the year, what path we put ourselves on and what roadmap we must use.
Knowing all this, it’s easier to experience Hanukkah as being one-third of the way, on the path toward the goal, with an awareness of what’s happened so far and what still needs to happen. It’s a good time to look at how our year is developing.
Hanukkah is the natural time to do this because it’s the time for seeing the unseen. We light candles in the darkest time of year, when we normally can’t see in the dark. That’s how we look into our lives to see how they are developing and unfolding, even hidden in the darkness.
This is one important part of what Hanukkah represents, meaning it’s a time when the pregnancy of our year is recognized. Based on the same concept of seeing the unseen, there are 36 Hanukkah candles representing 36 hidden tzadikkim supporting the world.
And, in addition, the first 36 hours of Creation were the hours when Adam was able to see with the aid of the hidden light, from one end of time and space to the other.
What opens up for us at this time of Hanukkah is that ability to see the entire spectrum, the continuum of our lives and other peoples’ lives. It includes our inner and outer vision, and both are infinitely expanded.
We need to pick up on this aspect of Hanukkah, too.
Also, there’s the idea of war. The Maccabees waged war against the Greek empire at the time was referred to, by some sources, as, “the war of no choice.” It was one family against a whole empire, the Maccabees against the Greeks. They were a family that the Greeks could not be allowed to conquer the land spiritually, even if they weren’t warring against it physically.
The Greeks wanted to impose their viewpoints on everyone, and the Maccabees, in their zealousness, decided they could not let it happen. They chose to defeat the Greek empire on the power of “no choice.” They had no choice but to zealously defend the Jewish people, whatever it took.
A band of marauders, hiding out in the Judean hillsides, situated themselves to win a battle waged over a long period of time. Their victory was based on the power of, “we have no choice.” With that power, we can do amazing things now, too.
Also, Hanukkah is the holiday of the Sephira of Hod. For one thing, Hod represents the spirit of enabling the dis-abled. That means enabling someone who is not enabled. This is a whole, distinct Sephirotic reality requiring complete selflessness and a lot of love, skill and foresight to take something that is not enabled and bring it to a point where it is enabled. On Hanukkah, we have that kind of light.
Hod also represents Hoda-ah, which means gratefulness. And it means saying Thank You. The power of saying Thank You is huge, and it can change a person’s life. Rabbi Shalom Arush and Reb Lazer Brody’s book is taking the world by storm in their book about gratitude, and being able to say Thank You for half an hour a day, for everything, good and bad. That practice can bring miracles into your life. That’s the power of saying Thank You.
It’s a great experience to say Thank You because everybody loves to receive a Thank You and it really feels good to give a Thank You, to other people and to G-d as well.
This aspect of the Hanukkah Sephira of Hod is in play at this time, and it’s what we’re tapping into.
Finally, the next idea is the difference between the Greeks’ understanding of Hod and the Jews’ understanding of Hod. In a nutshell, the concept is this – Greeks were famous for their ability to see beauty and the splendor of life, as long as it was measurable and able to be articulated and scientifically defined and proven.
Whether it be philosophy, analytics or esthetics and art, or any of the Greeks’ other gifts to civilization, it was valid if it can be seen and measured. But, the Jewish understanding of Hod is the beauty of things which cannot be seen. This drove the Greeks crazy, causing them to pronounce horrible edicts and decrees against the Jews.
Jews had something the Greeks did not understand, and they couldn’t stand it. They did not understand our connection to G-d and to Torah, Shabbos and the soul. These are all things that cannot be quantified or measured. They cannot be weighed or accounted for in any way. They are invisible.
Our power on Hanukkah, which needs to be celebrated, is the power of the unseen. This contrasts to Purim which is a celebration of the unknown. We are supposed to drink until we reach a place of not knowing. But on Hanukkah it’s the power of the not seen.
We need to celebrate that and make it a part of our lives.
Comments are closed.