Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Chanukah.

Compromise

Illustration by Sefira Ross.
Illustration by Sefira Ross.

The name Chanukah comes from the word chinuch, which means "inauguration." Chanukah celebrates the renewal of the service in the Holy Temple after it was liberated from the Greek defiler, purified, and rededicated as the seat of the divine presence in our world.

Chanukah serves as a model for all inaugurations, including the most significant inauguration of all—education, a child’s inauguration into life (indeed, chinuch is also the Hebrew word for "education"). The uncompromising insistence on purity and perfection which Chanukah represents holds an important lesson regarding the essence of the educator's task.

Compromise is anathema to education. To a mature tree, a gash here or a torn limb there is of little or no consequence. But the smallest scratch in the seed, the slightest nick in the sapling, results in an irrevocable deformity, a flaw which the years to come will deepen rather than erase.

Virtually every life is faced with demands for compromises—some tolerable, others not. The educator who wishes to impart a set of values and priorities that will weather them all, must deliver, in word and example, a message of impeccable purity, free of even the slightest and most acceptable compromise.
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Light!

Light, brightness, radiance, are metaphors we use when we wish to speak about hope, wisdom, or goodness. The candle flame, the ray of light, the glowing coal — these are the images in which we recognize our yearning for a better world, for a wiser, more virtuous, more G‑dly self.

We are encouraged by the fact that a luminous body like the sun, can have such a profound effect on entities and beings millions of miles away, enriching them with light, warmth, energy and life. We are encouraged by the fact that a tiny flame can banish a roomful of darkness. If so, all is not lost. If our own souls are "candles of G‑d", then little me is not so little after all. All we need to do is be what we truly are, to act out our innate goodness, and the darkness will melt away.

Once a year, we celebrate this truth. For eight days and nights, we celebrate the power of light: in ascending number — one little flame on the first evening, two flames on the second, three on the third — we kindle the Chanukah menorah, recalling that miraculous victory, 22 centuries ago, of quality over quantity, spirit over materialism, right over might. And pray for the day when such victories are no longer "miracles", but the way things are in G‑d's world.
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A Cruse of Oil

Every individual has his “one cruse of oil,” begging to be discovered. A person may not uncover this internal connection to G‑d in the ordinary circumstances of his life. But when challenged, as in the case of the Maccabees, this inner connection will surface. And when this divine bond comes to the fore, “[G‑d will] deliver the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few,” for nothing can withstand its power.

In their struggle against the Greeks, the Maccabees tapped this resource - this single cruse of oil, revealing a level of soul that transcended their usual limits. In response, G‑d revealed miracles that transcended the natural limits of this world.

The Chanukah miracle which followed serves as an eternal testimony to the essential connection to G‑d that the Greeks sought to sever. In our day as well, the Chanukah lights remind us that through an appreciation of the infinite G‑dly, dimension of the Torah and its commandments, we can kindle the potential for light we all possess within our souls.
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Striving Higher

Illustration by Sefira Ross
Illustration by Sefira Ross

It's luminous, it's warm, it's romantic; but most of all it's spiritual. A yellow droplet of light, laced with red, bright-white at the edges, and blue at the core as if dirtied by its contact with the material wick. But we didn't see all those colors until we counted them — the flame itself is a perfect, integral whole, emanating calm and tranquility.

How, indeed, can something as agitated as the flame radiate such peace? A flame is a clash of forces pulling in opposite directions. Back and forth, up and down it strives, vacillating between being and naught, between presence and oblivion.

"The soul of man is a candle of G‑d" (Proverbs 20:27). For the soul of man, too, is a clash of divergent forces and contrary strivings.

We yearn to tear free of our "wick" — of the body that anchors us to the physical reality and sullies us with physical needs and wants. We strive upwards, yearning to transcend the physical, and fuse with the universal and the divine. At the same time, we cling to the body, to the bit of matter that sustains us as dynamic and productive participants in G‑d's world.

It is this perpetual up-and-down, this incessant vacillation from selfhood to selflessness and back again, that we call life. It is this eternal tension between our desire to escape the physical and our commitment to inhabit it, develop it and sanctify it that makes us spiritual beings.

We can sit and gaze at the flame for hours, because we are gazing at ourselves.
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The Chanukah Battle Continues

The Chanukah battle and victory were immortalized by the Sages. The candles evoke the memory of the small group of Jews who fought those who had opposed the Torah. Today, we each battle our own evil inclination as well. Our victories, as well, will be eternally remembered. Our current mission and battle is for the coming of Moshiach, as we request three times a day during prayer. Although we only request his coming three times a day, we yearn for him “all day”!