This week we are celebrating Chanukah – yes, let’s have some fun! Light the menorah, eat latkes and sufganiot and give presents to the kids.

Yes, there is the historical victory that resulted in amongst other things, freedom of Religion.

But, the real question is how to make Chanukah meaningful to our Religion. How do we make Religion relevant to our lives? Here I am not referring to the halakhot of the menorah etc.., but how to use Chanukah to connect to the soul of Judaism, to ourselves and ultimately to each other.

I have culled a few thoughts from The Soul of Chanukah complied by Rabbi Shlomo Katz, based on the teachings of Reb Shlomo Carlebach.

The chapter headings are given as a clue to what we need to focus on:

  • Shining Eyes
  • Shining Souls
  • Shining Children
  • Shining Chutzpa
  • Shining Knowledge
  • Shining Torah
  • Shining Home
  • Shining Future

There is a halacha that we are not permitted to use the Chanukah lights for their light, only to look at them.

According to Rav Nachman, on Channukah the largest focus should be the use of our eyes. Our Sages tell us the most important thing to work on is Ayin Tovah, to have good eyes. To see the good is each person and of course, in ourselves.

Lighting the Chanukiah is a happy event. It is a time to use this happiness to uplift our souls. The Light of Chanukah is Ohr Haganuz, the concealed light.

When God created the world, he said, ‘let there be light’.

And what light are we celebrating? We are celebrating the lighting of the Menorah in the Temple of Jerusalem.

Yes, by us lighting the Menorah, we are reconnecting our souls to Jerusalem and to the service of God in the Temple.

This is so deep that I cannot even fathom the beauty and truth of this.

On Purim we get dressed up and act like children. Is it not amazing that on both Purim and Chanukah, the big emphasis is on the children. These two holidays are the holidays for the future – our children.

The young people of today are not unlike the young people in the days of the Maccabees. They too strayed from the holy tradition. We need leaders like Yehudah the Maccabee to show our youth how beautiful it is to be a Jew.

Chanukah is the one holiday when we defy death. The Maccabees were seventy people fighting 500,000 soldiers.  It took a lot of chutzpa to do this. What does it mean to have Holy Chutzpa? It means to have Mesirus Nefesh. To give of our Lives to a cause.

Again, the similarities to Medinat Yisrael are startling.  (I am trying very hard not to be political here)

On Chanukah we get a glimpse of what God is all about. We experience His Miracles, His Torah.

For every holiday there is entire tractate in the Talmud. The Gemara has only two and a half pages about Chanukah The Chanukah lights are not that bright and last a maximum 2-3 hours. When something is so deep, it has no words. Light has no words. This little light enables us to fight the darkness and evil in this world. It shines knowledge upon us, so we can succeed.

Chanukah is the first holiday of Torah Shel Peh. It is the first holiday we added, on our own. On Chanukah, we add more light every night. We celebrate the expanding of our Holiness.

The Oral Law is about  children choosing their parents. We choose Hashem. The Greeks wanted us to forget the Torah. On Chanukah we are reignitingl our connection to the Torah.

The mitzvah of Chanukah is lighting the Menorah in our homes. We are bringing that light and Torah inside our homes as a message to our children that the light of the Torah is shining. The future is bright. Mashiach is on the way.