A Note from Cantor Singer
At the darkest time of the year, when the daylight hours are at their shortest and the cold has set in, as the moon gets smaller and smaller until it finally disappears, we go out at night and light our menorahs. According to Jewish custom, we also light our menorahs in a low place (under 3 ft.). One starts to see a pattern emerging, a confluence of darkness in both time and space. It is into this place, at this time, that we bring light.
In all of our lives we have times and places where the "darkness" seems to gather. One loses a loved one, a job, gets angry at their children (or spouse) for leaving their clothes on the floor. There is no lack of potentially dark moments in our lives. Even the "good" things have a "dark side" -- the stress of marrying off a child or attending a family gathering, the stress of moving to a new home, or the exhaustion that comes with having a newborn baby.
A famous question is asked: Why do we celebrate the miracle of the burning oil for eight days? Since there was enough oil to burn for one day, the first day wasn't a miracle at all -- it was natural occurrence! Hanukkah should only be seven days. Not so. Who says that oil should burn at all? Burning for one night is also miraculous! In reality, God's hand is behind everything that happens. "Natural" means that we have become accustomed to expect that this is the way things should be. We can bring more light into our lives by appreciating the miraculous nature of the world around us and be grateful for things we take for granted.
We all go through ups and downs. We are commanded to bless the moon when it first appears right after disappearing completely. What a wonderful message of faith to remember that even when it appears dark and all seems to be forsaken, the light will come back again. It is telling us “Hang in there”.
If the miracle that we celebrate during Hanukkah is the re-dedication of the Temple and the lighting of the menorah, why do we always recount the story of the military victory of the Chashmonaim over the Greeks? While it is true that the goal of the Hanukkah story was realized in the re-dedication of the Temple, there was a long and arduous battle to get there. A small band of Jews battled against impossible odds in order to realize this goal.
Our journeys may also seem impossible at times. The road may be long and exhausting. By learning the story of the military victory of Hanukkah, we gain hope that against all odds, over long periods of time, with God's help, one can come to achieve their goals.