Posts tagged Chanukah

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.

8 Lights of Chanukah


*We find ourselves in the darkest [and coldest] time of year
*The Chanukah story stands at the historical precipice of the longest of exiles
*The picture of tiny Chanukah lights shining in this vast darkness represents the essential picture of our people and our legacy
*We are the most despised of peoples- ultimately destined to be the most beloved—a light to the nations
*We are presently analogous to the moon-ultimately destined to shine  like the sun
*We are the prisoners of a seeming endless exile-ultimately destined to be redeemed in an eternal redemption
*We are the people who have mastered the art of integrating spiritual light into materialistic darkness
The purpose of the following 8 meditations [parralleling the eight lights/days of Chanukah] is to tap into 8 essential Chanukah lessons or points of empowerment, and to draw this light into the cold and darkness of the upcoming months of our lives:



  1. AIN BRAIRA  NO CHOICE LIGHT   KNOW that the Maccabees, a single family, upon being presented with the options offered to them at the time by the Greeks –namely, to give up the essential elements of Judaism in exchange for their lives subjected to a Greek outlook on life—realized that they had NO CHOICE but to wage war against the entire Greek Empire—and eventually they won

LIGHT UP that area of your life that is darkened by an intolerable situation—a situation that leaves you NO CHOICE but to put a stop to the way things are presently happening……you can come to such a decision by driving in to yourself, the impact, that this intolerable situation has upon you, until you just can’t take it any longer…..when you’ve come to a firm resolution, then just let yourself receive from Hashem an alternative way that will light up the upcoming months of your life


  1. HEKAIR HAUBAR   RECOGNIZING THE FOETUS  LIGHT   KNOW that the part of the year stretching from Rosh Hashanah until Pesach parallels a pregnancy, beginning with conception and ending with birth….Chanukah corresponds to the phase where the pregnancy is recognized….in other words, our year’s agenda or plan or fate is now visible, and we become aware of where we are and where we could or should be going

LIGHT UP the unknown direction of where your life is at presently and where it is headed, by contemplating at this auspicious time, what you have accomplished or become so far this year….be grateful….allow yourself to receive Hashem’s loving and nurturing guidance and providence to become even better, and light up the rest of this pregnancy process that you are going through—all the way through birth and beyond


  1. OHR HAGANUZ    THE HIDDEN LIGHT   KNOW that we light on the 8 nights Chanukah 36 lights altogether…these lights correspond to the first 36 hours of Creation, that Adam with the aid of the OHR HAGANUZ was able to see from one end of time and space to the other…..these lights also correspond to the 36 Hidden Tzadikim that draw upon the Ohr Ganuz in their holy task of holding up spiritually the entire Universe

LIGHT UP your own potential portion of the Ohr Haganuz….. begin to do this by expanding the way that you perceive time and space—expanding your perceptions to go beyond just the narrow perception that most people grasp….also do this by delving so deep into what you encounter in life that you begin to tap into the essence of the essence…..project how you will be able to connect to this Ohr Ganuz bit by bit, day by day in the next few months, with the help of the One Above


  • OHR BACHOSHECH    LIGHT IN THE DARK   KNOW what our Sages teach us about the contribution of the Greek civilation—that relative to true light, it is nothing but darkness…..and know that the legacy of our people is the holy task of bringing light into the darkness, and as such, we are constantly occupied with seeing light in the midst of all kinds of darkness

LIGHT UP the darkness of your life —whether it be the darkness of being unclear about who you are or where you are going, or the darkness of the pain involved in suffering and despair—light it up with Hashem’s Divine Light—a light that is filled with love and compassion and healing and guidance—a light that when it encounters any type of darkness–lights it up….bring this light into your life and see how it increase in magnitude from day to day and month to month


  1. HOD    ENABLING GLORY LIGHT  KNOW that Chanukah represents our annual inoculation of the Sefirotic trait HOD—the trait of  enabling and empowerment….Chanukah Hod is all about enabling the Jewish glory—the glory that was so apparent in the victories of the Maccabees  and in the victories of the righteous over the wicked and light over darkness

LIGHT UP your life by enabling and empowering the Jewish heritage that is your inheritance…..enable and empower your Torah and your Kedusha—2 of the most powerful and glorious blessings that we as a people possess…… look deep into your life and find what you can do to bring out the greatness of your Jewish practices and beliefs and observances and wisdom….enable others to shine in this glory that is available to them as well…..see how this glory will become more and more apparent with the passage of time


  1. HAROE ET HANOLAD   SEEING THE UNSEEN LIGHT   KNOW that one of the most striking differences between the Greek world outlook and our own is the fact that they would say, ‘What you see is what you get’ , and we say, “What you don’t see is what you get”……we look for , not only what meets the physical eye, but also what meets the spiritual eye—that which exists now as well as that which is to exist in the future

LIGHT UP  the unseen aspects of your life—those that are only accessible when you look through your spiritual eyes…..see what the Soul sees….see all of the invisible  influences at play in any and every situation…see that which will be born out of the present circumstances….see a person , not only for who they are now, but who they ultimately will be…see yourself able to see  in more more hidden dimensions as time goes by


  1. TOV L’HODOT  IT’S GOOD TO GIVE THANKS LIGHT   KNOW that part of the essence of Chanukah’s sefirotic trait –HOD, is [as is rooted in the word itself-Hod] perhaps the most fundamental aspect of human relations—saying thank you

LIGHT UP all of those who you encounter in life, by expressing thanks ….say thank you to the people in your life as much as possible……say thank you to Hashem for giving all of the manifold blessings that surround you at all times…say thank you to those who normally would not hear a thank you from you…..say thank you more and more until you begin to see how much you truly have to be thankful for


  1. MOED   APPOINTED TIMES  LIGHT   KNOW that Jewish time is synonymous with soul perfection…just as Chanukah is an opportunity for us to perfect certain areas of our lives—so it is with every MOED…..not only is it the case with every Moed, but the same is true for every day and every part of the day-every component of time offers unique opportunities for personal growth, healing and rectification

LIGHT UP the dimension of Time in your life….see every new time slot as an opportunity for a unique opportunity to grow and perfect yourself….see every Shabbat as an opportunity to taste and internalize future bliss….be aware and sensitive to each and every time frame, with it’s unique energies—and draw those energies into your lives as much as you can….see yourself becoming more and more time sensitive as time goes on


Have a happy and light filled Chanukah, and may we all draw the light into the coming months.

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