What We Celebrate and Learn from Hanukkah
Written by Rabbi Brad Horwitz
Director, Jewish Engagement & Adult Programs
When the Hanukkah candles are lit this year once again, Jews around the world will commemorate two miracles. The first miracle is a miracle of might. A small band of Jewish fighters, led by Judah the Maccabee and his family, was victorious over the Syrian Greek Army. Outmatched in numbers, weapons, and experience, it was not expected that they would be able to turn back this huge foe and reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated. Yet, that is exactly what happened. The Book of Maccabees recounts how the Jews were able to emerge victorious due to their edge in strategy and bravery. It was clearly a miracle brought on through the acts of these courageous people.
The second miracle is a miracle of light. The rabbinic legend found in the Talmud recounts that when the victory was secured, the Jews entered the Temple in Jerusalem and found it desecrated. There was only one small cruse of pure oil, enough to light the menorah in the Temple for one day. But it lasted eight days – enough time to produce new, pure oil, and the menorah was able to remain lit and never burn out. This miracle is attributed to God and the faith that the Jews had in God.
On Hanukkah, therefore, we think of both the power of humanity and the power of God. In order to live our days and make the world a better place, we learn that we must take an active role to stand up for what is right, defend just causes, seek out justice, and perform acts of lovingkindness. But that alone is only part of the equation. We also learn from Hanukkah that faith in God and living an active spiritual life can also bring light into our lives and fulfill us. There is comfort, joy and solace in knowing that our faith can give us strength and inspire us to be good people, do good things, and bring us joy and blessing.
May the lights of the this year’s Hanukkah candles remind us all to reflect on these miracles long ago, remind us of the daily miracles and the blessings in our lives, and inspire us to partner with God in making this world a better place.
Happy Hanukkah from the J