Section:  Avodah   Category: Innocent Observations
A Menorah With A Thousand Lights

I celebrated for eight days and now the last Chanukah light has burned out. I wonder to myself what did I get from Chanukah? In a sense Chanukah is the most difficult Yom Tov to get something from. Every Yom Tov has a very clear message that I can relate too. Accompanying this powerful message are many routine breaking activities and mitzvos that drive the message home. On Chanukah though, I don't change one bit of my daily routine other than to light the menorah. Even davening is fairly regular. I must confess the message of Chanukah is a bit murky in my mind.

Sure there are lots of lessons but which one is eating at me so badly that makes me want to change my ways and aspire to new heights? Which one changes my outlook (at least temporarily) like Pesach, Shavuos, Tisha B'Av, Yomim Noraim, and Succos? That the good guys (Macabim) were Moser Nefesh to fight the the bad guys (Greek Culture)? Sounds good but I am far from fighting. In fact I am not sure if Mattisyahu saw me today if he would identify me as one of the good guys or as a Hellenist. Let's face it the culture of the world has seeped into the most impenetrable airtight religious circles in some shape and form and we don't seem to be too troubled about it. This thought gnaws at me the entire eight days as I light my menorah and spin my dreidel.

Is the lesson that just like the Chashmonaim had the foresight to understand the devastating future affects of the harmless early implications of Greek culture, so too we must listen to our Gedolim since they know better about where certain paths will lead to? Not quite since we basically rely on them exclusively for Hilchos Nidah and Basar V'Chalav. For sensitive issues of this nature we consider them way out of date and have all kinds of excuses why they don't mean us anyway. Besides we consider ourselves far better judges of these things than them. How about finding that Pach Shemen and that Hashem is watching over us? Yes that is nice and comforting but it hasn't translated into any kind of mission statement as to how I should change my life.

I think my confusion may be the answer to the riddle for me. This entire Greek thing is probably very fuzzy for most of us. We are pretty much clueless about what the problem is with the way we live and behave since we all daven, learn, and constantly do wonderful acts of chesed. Basically we are facing the same problem we had back then. Then comes Chanukah and with our small jar of oil we light a little fire. It is the spark of hope. Once it is lit the first thing we see, which we didn't see up until now, is that we were living in the dark. We then tell nice stories about our heroes and it forces us to ask ourselves who we are. Still we are very unsure. Each day we add another light and things get clearer. Unfortunately, the culture in which we are raised is an insidious element bound to the innermost essence of our beings. Even if we one day we completely reject it, it is almost impossible to rid ourselves of it completely.

The lights of Chanukah taught me that I am a lost in the dark but there is a path out of the darkness. Each day I must add more light, a little at a time, in order that one day I will finally find my way. The Yom Tov is like rehabilitation. You are pampered for a while in an environment where you are given the tools to deal with your problem. You then take these tools and are responsible to apply it yourself to your own life. We had eight days where we were given lessons on how to turn on lights; more and more each day. Now we are on our own. No more menorah, no latkes, and no dreidel. It is up to us to continue adding our own lights so that hopefully one day we will have created enough light to see clearly and find our way back home.

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