By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Published by the Omaha World Herald – December 8, 2012
Hanukkah is the festival which celebrates the restoration of Jewish religious and political independence in the land of Israel about 2,200 years ago. During this holiday, we commemorate the triumph of our ancestors over the Greek forces that occupied Israel. They rebelled against the Greeks, liberated the land of Israel, recovered Jewish independence, and rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem that had been defiled.
Legend says that when our ancestors defeated the Greeks and were able once again to enter the Temple, they found only one cruse of undefiled oil with its seal unbroken, to light the candelabra. In it was enough oil to last only a single day, but a miracle happened and it burned eight days.
Since then, the central observance of Hanukkah is the lighting of an eight-branched candelabrum. On the first night of Hanukkah we light one candle, and on each of the successive seven nights we add an additional candle. Why is it done in this way? Wouldn’t it be more impressive to light eight candles each night? There is a lesson for us here: It is important to grow the light, just as it is good to strive to grow and increase our spirituality.
As we gather to light one candle, then two, we might contemplate what areas of our lives need more light, more understanding, more tolerance, more courage, and more hope. We could examine those areas of life in which others need more light. There is a great deal of darkness in the world: much pain and anguish, injustice and poverty, violence and war. May the light of the Hanukkah candles bring warmth to our souls and our homes. And may they encourage us to kindle for others the lights of love, compassion, and justice.