The Eternal Message of Chanukka
The source for the celebrating of Chanukka is in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat, 21b:
The Gemara asks: What is Hanukkah, and why are lights kindled on Hanukkah? The Gemara answers: The Sages taught in Megillat Ta’anit: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the days of Hanukkah are eight. One may not eulogize on them and one may not fast on them. What is the reason? When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary by touching them. And when the Hasmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. And there was sufficient oil there to lightthe candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days. The next year the Sages instituted those days and made them holidays with recitation of halleland special thanksgiving in prayer and blessings.
There are multitudes of volumes written about the significance of why Chanukka is such a momentous celebration for the past 2,200 years.
I would like to share the following observation. We are all familiar with the episode of Noah and the Flood, recorded in Parshat Noach-פרשת נח, read on the second week following the Sukkot celebration. When Noah tries to find if the waters of the flood have receeded, he sends out the dove. Why a dove? Because a dove is always.loyal to its mate. It’s a symbol of our relationship with G-d. When the dove returns with the olive branch, Noah understood that tranquility has returned to the world. Why an olive branch? An olive produces the brightest kindling light, but the branch is bitter. At times in our lives, we experience bitter and difficult situations.
To cope and rebound from that event, we look into the Torah for words of wisdom. The Torah is the Constitution of the Jewish people, containing the brightest solutions and guidance for an emotional and psychological rollercoaster one faces on a daily basis. The olive oil reminds us of that endurance, to lead our lives morally and ethically, and not compromised by inappropriate behavior. Just as oil does not mix with other liquids, one has to be careful of behavior that is an anathema to our moral standards.
It is ironic the the symbol of the United Nations for a symbol of “peace” is the dove with the olive branch, yet very much hostile to Israel.
The pure olive oil that is lit on Chanukkah reminds of our beautiful heritage and strength.
The People of Israel are an enduring and inspiring role model for others to emulate.
Enjoy this wonderful holiday and may G-d grant you and your families a bright future.
Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz
Channukah is known as the Festival of Lights and will be celebrated on December 18th ,for eight days. It falls on the darkest time of the year , not only on or near the winter solstice, but also at a time in the Hebrew calender when the moon is new and therefore mostly hidden from view.
On Channukah we tell the story of a days worth of oil that burned for eight days.We also tell the story of how a small army led by Judah Maccabee, a Jewish leader who defended his country from invasion by the Seleucid king Antiochus ,preventing the imposition of Hellenism upon Judea and preserving the Jewish religion.
I am reminded of the words of the late Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during WWII ,in summing up the achievements of the Royal Air Force in their battle with the Luftwaffe ,the aerial-warfare branch of the German Wehrmacht .”Never has so much been owed by so many to so few.”
Jewish history from its very beginning to the present day, is the story of the few who stood up to the many.Fortunately in our present day we still have the few who stand up to the ugly and nasty cancer of antisemitism.
According to F.B.I.’s 2020 hate crimes report ,of the 1,331 reported hate crime offenses motivated by religious bias in 2020, 59.1% were motivated by anti-Jewish bias. The F.B.I. also reported that 18.1% of religious bias hate crime incidents occurred in houses of worship of every denomination.
I am reminded of the words of the late Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l. “ We must never forget the message of Channukah: Fight back .Never be afraid. Whatever the threats, be proud to be Jewish and share this pride with others.”
May the bright lights of the Channukah candles, bring hope and calm in the years to come.
On behalf of my dear family, we would like to wish all our membership and your families , a beautiful, peaceful and radiant Channukah.