The Light of Hanukkah

A Song of dedication of the House, by David.

I exalt You Lord, for You have uplifted me,

and did not allow my enemies to rejoice over me.

Lord, my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.

Lord You brought me up from sheol [the netherworld];

You have kept me alive, that I should not descend into the pit….

You have turned my mourning into dancing;

You have loosened [the cords of] my sackcloth and girded me with joy.

Therefore my soul shall sing to You, and not be silent;

Lord, my God, I will praise You forever.

Psalm 30

There are times in life when we are overwhelmed by fear and doubt. There are times when we are plunged into spiritual darkness. In this place of total crisis, we are stripped naked before God and all our pretenses and facades fall away. In this rock -bottom state, we discover the spark of God that lies at the heart of our being. The light of this Divine spark is the light of Hanukkah.

Out of this pure and pristine place there arises a great joy. This joy brings with it the promise of renewed hope and a fresh beginning. It converts a moment of despair into a time of thanksgiving and celebration. This tremendous joy that uplifts and rejuvenates is the joy of Hanukkah.

Our profound inner experience alters the manner in which we perceive reality. We see the world around us with fresh eyes. New ideals and aspirations begin to awaken in our hearts. New dreams and visions burst forth to illuminate our minds. This radiance that transforms and renews is the spiritual illumination of Hanukkah.

The link with our soul that we have forged through our suffering and struggle gives us amazing inner strength. Because we know that God is with us, we have the courage to face anything. We feel that we can accomplish any task, surmount any difficulty and solve any problem. This Divine confidence comes from the energy of the Will of God that is hidden within us. It is symbolized by the oil of the Hanukkah miracle that is “stamped with the seal of the High priest.”

Armed with this inner strength, we turn to the process of reconstructing our lives. We clear out all of the ‘false gods’ from our heart and place the Lord at the centre of our being. We reorder our priorities and re-orientate our life towards Divine service. This rededication and reordering from a place of inner strength and wisdom is the Divine rededication of Hanukkah.

Rebbe Natan of Nemirov teaches that the light of Hanukkah is really the hidden light of the seven days of creation – the supernal light of the Garden of Eden. [1] It is a Divine light that illumines our minds and clears away the miasma that clouds our thinking. It is a redeeming light that breaks down our fear and shines forth a pathway out of hopelessness and despair. It is a transcendent light that raises us out of the material consciousness of this physical world into the sublime awareness of the heavenly realm.

There is another Psalm that we recite on Hanukkah, Psalm 133. This Psalm embodies the universal message of this holyday.

A Psalm of Ascension of David.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is

for brothers to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,

running down the beard of Aaron:

running down over the hem of his garment.

Like the dew of Hermon descending upon the mountains of Zion.

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

In the Zohar, this psalm is linked to the forces of Divine compassion that flow through the cosmic beard of the Greater and Lesser Countenances. [2] These celestial workers come to the aid of humanity in times of great need, overriding all emissaries of judgment and destruction. Just like the anointing oil that runs down from the beard of Aaron in the Temple, these forces are described as thirteen springs of anointing oil that flow down from the beard of the Greater Countenance to illuminate all the lower worlds. And it is this same ‘anointing oil’, according to the Ari, that was responsible for the great miracle of Hanukkah. [3]

In the history of humankind, there have been periods when the whole world has been enveloped in darkness. During these difficult times, the darkness was so thick that it seemed that the light would never return. The holyday of Hanukkah comes in answer to these human crises.

Hanukkah is a Divine promise that the darkness will never be allowed to extinguish the light. This is why Hanukkah comes at the darkest period of the year and marks the approach of the winter solstice, when the light of the day begins to grow once more.  It is a promise that no matter what setbacks Evil creates, Goodness will ultimately triumph. It is a promise that love and compassion are more powerful than fear and hatred.

This Divine assurance is predicated not on the strength of human beings but on the power of the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as there is a spark of God at the core of every human being, so there is the Kingdom of Heaven that overshadows all of humankind. When we turn our hearts and minds towards God in aspiration and hope, we link ourselves with the forces of love and compassion that live on higher planes. This inner connection enables their supernal strength and will to enter into our physical world. Once this door has been opened, everything is possible.

There is a custom that before we light the Hanukkah menorah, we recite Psalm 133 and the thirteen attributes of compassion as enumerated in the prayer of Moses:

“Lord, Lord, mighty, compassionate and gracious, longsuffering, abundant in love and truth, keeping truth to the thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin and He cleanses” – Exodus 34:6-7

In this way, we join our minds to the thirteen aspects of the beard of the Greater Countenance and the supernal hosts of Divine compassion. We lift our consciousness out of the narrow confines of this physical world up into the vast expanses of the Temple of Heaven.

 

Copyright © 2010, by Yoel Glick

Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Natan of Nemirov, Lekutei Halachot, Laws of honoring one’s teacher, law 3 # 10
  2. Zohar III Idra Rabbah 132B
  3. Chaim Vital, Sha’ar Hakavanot, kavanah for Hanukkah

Join the discussion One Comment