We've all heard the story a hundred times about the victory of the Maccabees over the Assyrian Greeks and the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days instead of one. The holiday is celebrated by reciting special prayers, with public menorah lightings, by sharing the light and the message of the holiday, and, of course, with the lighting of the menorah in our homes, adding a candle each of the eight nights.

This is all fine and nice, but there’s more!

Typically, light is used for what you are doing. You flip a switch in your bedroom because you need light. You put a floodlight in your backyard so you can play basketball after dark. You turn on your flashlight to brighten a dark space so that you can tighten that elusive screw.

But imagine a world where the reason you created light was for everyone else?

Remember the old JFK line: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

I propose that a deeper message of Chanukah is: “Ask not what your lights will do for you, but what your lights will do for others.”

There is a curious feature about the menorah that was lit in the Temple and the light it produced. In the days of old, before double-pane glass windows, windows worked a bit differently. Houses had thick walls with narrow openings exposed to the outside, and a wider opening facing the inside of the house (like an inverted funnel or bull horn).

In this way, you limited exposure to intruders but maximized on the amount of light you took into your home. The windows of the Holy Temple were the opposite. The narrow opening was on the inside, and the wider opening was on the outside.

Our sages teach us that this was because the Temple was lighting up the world, not vice versa. The light, spirituality and holiness of the Temple brightened up the dark world outside.

This Chanukah, perhaps, in addition to doing our personal menorah lightings and mandatory latke-eating at home, and publicizing the miracle by attending public menorah lightings, let’s attempt to emulate the lights of the Temple, whose lights we are celebrating, and try not just to not light up our own lives, but also to brighten the lights in others’ lives.

There is a curious law regarding the menorah: “It is forbidden to use the lights of the menorah, only to gaze upon them.” Meaning, we cannot use the lights for their most obvious purposes, heat or light. Rather, we are encouraged to simply gaze at them.

Now, if I can’t use them, then what good does gazing upon them do? If I could read a book by their radiance, fine. But to simply look at them? What is that worth?

This can be understood, however, in the context of the lights of the Temple, which radiated spiritual light out into the world. Like the Temple lights, the lights of the menorah are uplifting, even to those who just look at them. There is something magical about flames that draws us to stare at them. Gazing at them elevates and inspires us. It's not their utility that lifts us up. It’s just candles being candles, flames being flames. It is their essence that uplifts. Using them for our mundane purposes can potentially diminish that magic. If I am using the candlelight for reading, my shadow may block you.

However, simply gazing upon them allows that magic to enter us. Let’s not keep that aura all to ourselves; let's share that with the world. Let’s allow others to experience the mystique of the candles as well.

We simply need to #sharethelights.