Chanukkah has greater mass appeal than many of the other Jewish holidays probably because it does not have the restrictions associated with it as biblical holidays. The holidays prescribed in the Torah have certain restrictions, things we must do and not do, which act like a container for the light of divine revelation. On Chanukkah, there are no restrictions for as my teacher of blessed memory Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach would say, on Chanukkah we get the vessels and the light together. It is a complete gift. One simply lights the Chanukkah menorah, and one is plugged into divine light.
Chanukkah occurs at a time in the year when the days are the shortest and the nights are the longest to teach us a most important teaching that at the darkest time, there is light and there will be light. As we mature and grow through the challenges that life presents to us, we learn that the light in the darkness shines even more brightly because of the darkness that surrounds it.
As we say the blessings we are reminded of the miracle of the oil burning for eight days and of military victory of the Maccabean over the Greeks. The Maccabeans, few in number, defeated the large Greek armies, and then rededicated the Holy Temple on the 25th of Kislev. Any oil could have been used for the rekindling of the menorah, but they wanted a vial that had not been defiled and surprisingly they found one, hidden away. Looking for a vial that had not been contaminated was an expression of the desire to return to the original purity of their connection to God. The miracle of the oil was that although there was just enough oil to last for one day, it lasted for eight days. It was not logical but God is beyond logic. And that is what Chanukkah wants to reminds us. God is beyond this world, God is infinite and life is miraculous.
The deepest teachings of Chanukkah are most powerfully revealed directly through gazing and meditating upon the Chanukkah lights. After doing some breathing and meditation to prepare for lighting the menorah, imagine that when you stand before your little menorah, you are standing in front of the Menorah in the Holy Temple where the Shechinah, the divine presence was revealed. This is a place of vision and dreams that are beyond the rational mind. You know this place, it is in your soul memory and you can access it now through your imagination. As you light candles, you ignite your access to the place deep within yourself of the most powerful holy and intimate connection with your own soul .This is your Holy Temple. If you can, place the menorah by the window to indicate your desire to share this light of miracles with others.
After you light candles, do not abandon these lights, do not make small talk, but gaze at them. God is pouring holy light into you at this time. Open to receive this gift. This light will feed your soul through the dark times in life. Although this may be a little uncomfortable, keep your eyes open as much as possible and let the light fill your screen. The holy light of Chanukkah has the power to purify and transform us. Imagine that you can cast into the light anything you want to get rid of. The more you are able to let go, the brighter the light will be.
If you need to you can close your eyes, but continue to meditate, allowing the light to be experienced within you. When your eyes are closed, imagine that you are a Chanukkah candle and the light of Chanukkah burns within you. When you can, open your eyes and gaze at the light directly.
As you gaze at the light, imagine that you can listen to the light. The candlelight each night has a message to you. As you listen for your message, know that not only does the light of Chanukah radiate hope, it transmits faith. It reminds us to dream again, and that our dreams are beautiful. It reminds us that we can return to who we really are, no matter how far away we may feel from God. We can be free, we can be holy, we need not be limited by the past. If you want, you can even ask a question, and as you gaze at the light, listen deep inside to your own soul.
Gazing at the lights of Chanukkah is ultimately so awesome because it provides a glimpse into the eternal light of God, the hidden light, the holy light, the light before creation. This light of God has burned forever and will burn eternally. When we get a glimpse of this holy light, we know that the Jewish people are eternal and that God is God. This is so awesome. The light of Chanukkah reminds us that good will always triumph over evil. And now more than ever, this is a great comfort.
Melinda ( Mindy) Ribner L.C.S.W. a teacher of Jewish meditation for over 20 years, a spiritual psychotherapist in private practice, Author of Kabbalah Month by Month, New Age Judaism and Everyday Kabbalah., Founder and Director of Beit Miriam. To be on the Email list for weekly teachings , contact Ribner@msn.com