In every time and place throughout history, it seems nearly impossible for the Jews to ever truly feel safe. There is always some form of threat to either our physical or spiritual existence. We have always been the few against the many at battle with overwhelming forces that threaten to extinguish our light.
Chanukah is celebrated because, at the time of the second Temple under the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Syrian-Greeks sought to impose their Hellenistic culture on the Jews. Many Jews succumbed to this way of life as they found it appealing. Around 167 B.C.E, Antiochus defiled the Temple in Jerusalem and banned Jewish practice. The Hasmonean who were led by the five sons of the priest Matisyahu, fought for years to reclaim and restore the Temple.
When the Hasmonean family triumphed over the Greeks, they only found one sealed jar of pure oil with the stamp of the High Priest that was acceptable for use in the Menorah.
There is a debate as to which miracle is more remarkable. Some claim it was that a few Jews were able to defeat the mighty Greeks in battle. Others say it was finding a small jug of oil enough for one day but miraculously lasted for eight days.
In fact, both miracles were necessary. The miracle of the military victory saved our physical existence whereas, the miracle of the oil represented our spiritual victory. Although the Temple was short lived, our dedication to serving G-d has kept us alive both physically and spiritually throughout the ages.
Today, we wage both battles as well.
Although we have a Jewish state, our existence continues to be threatened daily. All the surrounding nations would have us wiped off the map and most of the world has turned their backs on us. Physically it is but by the grace of G-d’s constant miracles that we continue to thrive.
When looking at the Pew Report and the temptations of living the modern materialistic lifestyle one might give up hope for the future of Jews. Spiritually we appear to be sinking. The passion for religion and serving G-d has waned. People are skeptical and self-centered and the flame seems to be dying. The bulk of people are not interested or simply play the game, going through the motions leaving their hearts wanting.
It is painful to see that so many years later we have not progressed spiritually and fall into the same traps we always have.
Sometimes I despair when I look around and see the huge void that we have willingly accepted into our lives.
Then Chanukah rolls around and we light the candles.
The first night I was struck deeply by the candle lighting. We lit one little light by the window and it hit me. This one small light represents the “pintele yid”, that small stubborn light in each Jew that refuses to be extinguished. We may not be as spiritually strong as we should be but we all have that light, that strength, that fire. It simply needs to be found and ignited, like the jug of oil, and G-d will help it to endure. When we look into the eyes, the window to the soul, of our fellow Jews, we must see that light. It is a spiritual light that exists within each and every one of us. Not everyone will light the menorah this holiday but it is undeniable that we all still have a small light emanating from within.
The most important lesson we are to take from Chanukah is to never give up the fight no matter how bleak things seem to be around us. If we seek out the source of goodness and ignite it miracles can happen.