By: Hadassah Reich (11th grade)
The holiday of Chanukah is always a fun and festive time. People get to spend time with their family, eat delicious treats, play dreidel, light up the Menorah, and more. But what is so special about this holiday? Other than adding Al Hanissim to davening and praying Hallel, life is normal: we go to work, we go to school, and we go through our normal routines. So what is really so unique about Chanukah?
To answer this question you have to consider the historical context of Chanukah. The time of Greek power was a confusing time for Jews. The Greeks introduced the egotistical lifestyle to the Jewish people. They introduced the idea of instant gratification, doing whatever makes you feel good in the moment, without considering the consequences. This new concept brought many Jews to a crossroads, even though the message conflicts with core principles of Judaism. Nevertheless, many Jews subscribed to this lifestyle by becoming Hellenists. Balancing the life of a Jew in a secular world is still a struggle we all face nowadays.
The Mishlei says, “נר אלוקים נשמת אדם” - “the flame is our soul.” Flames by the laws of nature always rise up, no matter what. Even if you flip a candle upside down, the flame will still shoot upwards. Similar to a fire, our souls are always rising up and striving to be closer to Hashem, but this is difficult with constant messages that conflict with our faith. The exile we are in right now is not very different from the times of the Greek. However, instead of soldiers going out to physical battles, our souls are fighting to be more spiritual. In a time of darkness and confusion we light our candles and watch the flames that symbolize our souls. Even when the world feels upside down, we are always rising up.