To Kindle a Flame

Six brave men, one jug of oil and a miracle which has been a light for all the Jewish people throughout the long dark galus. At Chanukah time we must ask ourselves what we would do had we heard the cry of Mi laShem eilai. Let us analyze the miracle of Chanukah and gain some insight into what we can glean from this special Yom Tov.

In the story of Chanukah, Chazal tell us of two major miracles: the miracle of the oil and the miracle of the war. In the Talmud the miracle of the oil is discussed at length while the battle isn’t discussed that much. Why doesn’t the miraculous victory of the Chashmona’im merit as much focus as the oil?

There are various answers given in Chazal, one being that the Sages weren’t pleased with the actions of the Chashmona’im, who kept the Meluchah, the kingship, for themselves rather then returning it to an heir of Dovid Hamelch. For this reason Chazal chose not to discuss their nes.

Let us suggest a different approach. Throughout the Tanach, there are stories of people who were willing to give up their lives to be mekadesh Hashem, to sanctify the name of Hashem. Avraham when he faced Nimrod, Chananya, Mishael and Azaryah when they were threatened with the fiery furnace, Mordechai when he refused to bow to Haman, and many others throughout the ages, were all ready to give up their lives for the sake of Heaven.

There is a group of people in the Chanukah story as well who were willing to sacrifice their lives for Hashem. The Chashmona’im were not warriors. They didn’t even have proper weapons with which to fight, yet they were determined not to let matters continue as they were. Mattisyahu and his sons stood up for their beliefs and risked their lives, “knowing” that they faced death at the hands of the Greeks. Nevertheless they fought, hoping that at least their deaths while fighting for the Torah would inspire the Jews to rise up against the Greeks. Hashem had other plans for them, and miraculously the Chashmona’im were able to beat the Greeks time and time again.

We don’t zoom in on the victory of the Chashmona’im because it isn’t the point of the story; Hashem is the One Who makes miracles. The Zohar tells us that the Chashmona’im clearly recognized that their victories were miraculous. When the Chashmona’im regained the Bais Hamikdash, they took seven of the spears used in the battle and turned them into a menorah. The Zohar tells us that this was the menorah that burned for eight days. According to this Zohar, the miracle of the oil and the miracle of the war were two parts of a greater miracle.

Let us learn from these actions of the Chashmona’im. They opened their eyes to the actions of the Greeks, noted wrongdoing and acted to create change, risking their lives to do so. Focusing on their victory would distract us from the main lesson: When something is wrong you can’t just sit by quietly and let it happen; you have to get up and fight.

Baruch Hashem, we are not among a group of six men attacking an army of seasoned soldiers who ride on elephants. However, many battles must be fought in the world today. The ideology of the Greeks, contrary to popular belief, was not defeated — it is actually quite strong. Their culture is all around us, and the present day “Greeks” are still trying to Hellenize us.

We don’t have to wait until we are hiding in caves playing dreidel to take action. Each and every Torah Jew can contribute to this battle both on the offense and on the defense. We all must hold the line, while at the same time engaging the enemy.

One might think that, 2,000 years since the original Chanukah story, it is much harder to fight the Greeks. That may be true — however, we have something that the Chashmona’im did not have when they fought the Greeks. We have Chanukah.

Each and every one of us can tap into the fire of the Menorah and let it kindle our neshamos into a flame of spirituality. With the light of the Menorah we can b’ezras Hashem have a complete victory over the Greeks and all that they stand for. May the fire of Chanukah remain with us throughout the year. Amen.