O God, give me light in my heart and light in my tongue

And light in my hearing and light in my sight

And light in my feeling and light in all my body

And light before me and light behind me.

Give me, I pray Thee,

Light on my right hand and light on my left hand

And light above me and light beneath me,

O Lord, increase light within me

And give me light and illuminate me.

Muslim Prayer, attributed to Mohammed [1]

 


Light is Spirit. Light is joy. Light is love. Light is peace.

We yearn to bask in the light: it warms us, it heals us; it illumines us. We want to surround ourselves with light, immerse ourselves in it; have light permeate the whole of our being. As we link with light, we link with Spirit, we link with goodness; we link with God.

“And the Lord said, Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3) God created light first, but it was not a physical light. The sun, moon and the stars only came later. It was an inner light that God first created, and it is this is inner light that we so profoundly seek.

“And God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:4)

The Talmud (Haggigah 12) states that God saw that the light was good, and therefore not suitable for evil doers, so He hid the light for the tzaddikim (righteous ones) in the future.

The light of the Garden of Eden was the light of a completely different state of consciousness. It is only when we have fully integrated this consciousness that the light will be revealed to us again. This is the tikkun (repair) of the original fall, the building of a solid vessel for the Divine light. This is the healing of the shevirat hakailim (breaking of the vessels), the mixing of the light with the darkness – the artificial reality that is the material world.

This Divine light is the light of Hanukkah; it is an inner illumination that wipes away the darkness of the world. It eradicates the darkness in our hearts, the darkness in the hearts of those around us, the darkness of ignorance that is woven into the very fabric of this plane of existence.

We meditate on the glory of the Creator

Who has created the universe,

Who is fit to be worshipped,

Who is the embodiment of knowledge and light,

Who is the remover of all sins and ignorance.

May He enlighten our intellect.

Hindu Prayer, Gayatri mantra [2]

The light of Hanukkah is the light of the mind. The illumination of the whole year is drawn from Hanukkah. Each night we add another candle, because we need to continually expand our consciousness, continually increase the illumination of our whole being out toward the Infinite. The more that we go on, the more this light will be revealed to us, the more we will experience it in all its manifold manifestations.

Light is powerful. Light is precious. Light can be dangerous. If we are not ready to receive the light then it can destroy us. The Torah tells us that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai the second time, his face was radiating light. The light was so powerful that the Children of Israel were afraid to come close to him. So Moses covered his face with a veil, which he only removed when he entered into the Tabernacle to converse with the Lord.

Rebbe Natan of Nemirov teaches that the light of Hanukkah is the concealed light of the or makif, the surrounding light, a sacred light that is beyond our normal grasp. It is the light of keter, the crown center or sefirah, the highest light that was revealed on Yom Kippur when the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) entered into the Holy of Holies. This concealed light, Rebbe Natan tells us, can also be accessed on Hanukkah. [3]

Light needs to be pure. Light needs to be protected and kept safe. This is why the Temple Menorah had to be lit with oil that was sealed with the stamp of the High Priest. The light of Hanukkah touches the light that lies at the heart of creation. If we are not pure, then this light cannot remain among us. This is the reason why the Temple was destroyed, because Israel no longer had the purity necessary to hold the light of the Divine Presence in its midst.

This is also why the story of Hanukkah focuses on the small pot of oil that miraculously kept the Menorah burning for eight days. It was the purification of Israel initiated by the Maccabean priests that enabled the Temple and the light to be restored. Their discovery of one last pot of undefiled oil in the Temple is the central image of this holyday. This is why, according to some traditions, the final verdict for the New Year only receives its ultimate seal on Hanukkah. Hanukkah is our final opportunity to purify our lives and reveal the inner light.

“God saw that it was good.”

This refrain runs through the whole of the creation story. The Hasidic Master, Shlomo of Radamsk, asks: What does it mean for God to see, and for Him to see that something is good? Rebbe Shlomo then goes on to explain. The first of God’s seeing is light. The light of God is the light of Spirit that filled the physical forms of everything that is manifest on all the myriad levels of creation. This light is what gives them life. This bestowing of light and life is God’s “seeing” – what the Hindus call His/Her “darshan”- looking in the direction of the object and filling it with His power. As the Book of Job (28:27) states: “He saw it, and declared it; He established it, and searched it out.” [4]

This is why the mitzvah of Hanukkah is to see the light, and why the hanukkiah is placed in a spot where others can see it as well. It is not enough to talk about the light or even to do the act of lighting the hanukkiah. We need to “see” the light, to feel its warmth, to bask in the power of the Divine Presence. Otherwise we have not experienced the true essence of this holyday.

 

II.

“God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God created the world in order to bestow His infinite goodness upon His creations. When God saw that the Divine light was flowing into all that He had created, then the creation was complete; it was “very good.”

This is why this passage is immediately followed by the description of the seventh day: “Then the heavens and the earth were completed, and all of their hosts…And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.”(Genesis 2:1-3) Shabbat is the culmination of the creation. On Shabbat the full light or benediction of God is flowing into the world and throughout all the worlds. On Shabbat the entire creation is spiritually aligned and alive with the Divine Presence as it was meant to be.

This is what it means to see God face to face, like Moses, to receive the full emanation of His grace. When we do God’s Will, we draw His sight upon us, His blessing and benediction; “His light.” This joins us to Him and fills us with His presence and His goodness.

When we go against the Will of God, however, God responds by “hiding His face.” When we follow our own desires, we create a barrier between God and us which blocks out the light. A veil then covers the darshan of the Divine Countenance, and we are plunged into a state of darkness and despair. [5]

The holyday of Hanukkah is about finding pure oil. It is about purifying our lower selves so that the Divine Light can flow through us. It is about stripping away the layers of physicality, of craving and self-absorption, which prevent our innate Divine goodness from shining forth.

The Hebrew word Hanukkah means rededication. The Divine light needs constant rededication. Rededication demand courage and faith. It demands perseverance and steadfastness. It calls for great strength of will.

The inner light is very potent. It is the light of God, the light of the Infinite, the light of Life, the light of pure Spirit. Once we touch this light, anything is possible. One person that is alight can kindle all those around him. In this way, even a small drop of oil can suffice for eight days.

This is another reason why the miracle of Hanukkah focuses on the Menorah and the pot of oil and not on the military victory: victories come and go, and so do dynasties, but the light of the Spirit is eternal. It is always present, always there. It may be hidden amidst darkness and rubble, but there is always one jar of pure oil left with which to ignite the light. This is what it means that the light was hidden away for the tzaddikim in the future. This light is hidden behind this material reality, waiting for tzaddikim, waiting for one-pointed God-centered individuals, to come reveal the light and set it ablaze.

“And God saw that the light was good.”

On Hanukkah we light eight candles. Eight is the number of completion. In this place of fullness, we are immersed in the sea of God’s infinite light. We then know that we are light, that we are goodness. Abiding in the light, we enter into the realm of pure consciousness, where all is God; where all is One.

This is the definition of a tzaddik, a holy one or a realized soul: A tzaddik is someone who has been so permeated with pure light that he or she can give of that light to others. A tzaddik is someone who can reveal the light of God that is hidden in every person and every object. Wherever he goes, he radiates Divine light and wipes away the darkness.

O let us live in joy,

In love amongst those who hate!

Among men who hate,

Let us live in love…

O let us live in joy,

In peace amongst those who struggle!

Among men who struggle,

Let us live in peace.

O let us live in joy,

Although having nothing!

In joy let us live

Like beings of light.

Dhammapada [6]

Our task in this life is to be purveyors of light, to be instruments for the power of goodness that we have given the name of God. Our aspiration is to become transparent vessels that hold nothing but the light of God. Our goal is to become beings of light that spread love where there is hate, peace where there is strife, and joy where there is sorrow. The light which we kindle on Hanukkah is the living symbol of this mission, this most exalted of human aspirations.

Copyright © 2009, by Yoel Glick

 


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Translation from www.godprayers.org
  2. Translation/formulation by Swami Shivananda of the Divine Life Society
  3. Natan of Nemirov, Lekutei Halachot: Hilchot Hanukkah, halacha 5
  4. Shlomo of Radamsk, Tifferet Shlomo, Torah portion Bereshit
  5. ibid
  6. Dhammapada, translated by Juan Mascaro

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