[Upon reclaiming the Beit Hamikdash from the Greeks], the Hashmonians first made the menorah out of iron poles plated with tin. When they grew wealthier, they made a menorah of silver. When they grew wealthier still, they made a menorah of gold.

Talmud, Menachot 28b

The people were poor, and all they could afford was an iron menorah. They scraped together some tin to give it a silver-like appearance and luster, but this was but a thin veneer, and obviously not the real thing. But they kept at it, iron-willed as their makeshift candelabra, illuminating their lives and their world with the oil lamps it held aloft.

Soon they could afford real silver—solid silver, supple and lustrous through and through. Their light now yearned sweetly through the night, complemented by the soft white gleam of the vessel that bore it.

Finally, they graduated to a menorah of blazing gold.

Our sages have said, "There is no true poverty save the poverty of mind, and no true wealth save the wealth of mind."1 But even the poorest of souls need not relinquish his role as "a lamp of G‑d."2 He can build his menorah out of the iron of commitment and determination—something even the most impoverished of mind and spirit can muster.

And anyone can plate his menorah with tin, imparting to it at least a semblance of silvery feeling and desire (the Hebrew word for "silver," kessef, also means "yearning" and "desire"). He need not worry that his emotions are shallow and contrived: if he keeps at it, doing luminous deeds and cultivating an understanding and feeling for what he is doing, his iron core will hold it all together until he develops into a wholly silver menorah.

Eventually, he will even attain the ultimate menorah—a luminous life in which the tranquil yearning of silver gives rise to the fiery passion of gold.3

Based on an entry in the Rebbe's journal, dated "Chanukah 5696" (1935)4