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When Jacob returned to Israel after twenty-two years of being a minority in the city of Haran, where his uncle Laban lived, he said “I sojourned with Laban . . . and I acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, manservants, and maidservants.[1]
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Home » Chanukah

The “Light” of Chanukah

Submitted by on December 25, 2005 – 2:36 amOne Comment | 2,539 views

A story is told of a man who was struggling along with an obviously heavy sack slung over his shoulder. The weather was hot and humid making his task arduous and tiring. A passer-by, clearly intrigued by this individual, asked him what it was that he had in the sack. The man replied that he was carrying rocks and stones.

He persisted to enquire as to the weight of the sack. The reply was not long in coming; it was quite heavy and laborious, he said with a long sigh. To his exasperation and annoyance, the man then asked him if he would be interested in having some more stones added to the load. The reaction to this ridiculous suggestion is totally predictable!

Now let’s imagine the same man walking along in identical conditions. But this time, he is carrying diamonds, rubies and other precious stones. When asked if the sack is heavy, the reply is in the affirmative. But when asked if he would like to have more added, how do you think he would react? Of course, it would be an emphatic yes!

The different reactions in the two stories are reasonable. Although the man was carrying a substantial load on a very warm day, the contents of the sack were highly influential to his condition and well-being. When it was mere rocks, it was a real effort, but the knowledge that a great fortune was in the bag helped to lighten that burden.

In the same way, the reaction we have towards our responsibilities, particularly to the religious commandments the light of chanukah - innerstreamwe are directed to perform depends entirely on our approach. They could be burdensome like rocks or treasured like precious rubies and diamonds.

Indeed, we are encouraged to view our religion as just that, precious and special. Yes, it is not always easy to observe but the knowledge that we thereby accumulate precious gems surely stimulates one to overcome obstacles.

This is the message of the Jewish holiday, Chanukah. The holiday celebrates an ancient victory of Jews over their oppressors, the Syrian Greeks. But beyond the celebration of an ancient victory Chanukah is a celebration of ideas. It represents the dominance of Religion over Hellenism. Hellenism was a way of life for ancient Greeks who aimed at culture, grace, and amenity as chief elements in human well being and perfection.

Judaism on the other hand aimed at G-d, the spirit and the soul as chief elements in human well being and perfection. The clash was obvious.

The Greek Hellenist saw the Jew burdened by his heavy load of commandments and traditions and felt sympathy. He noticed the sweat and the toil, the labour and the difficulty. He saw the Jew struggling up the mountain with a tremendous weight on his back. By outlawing the Jewish commandments the Greek kindly sought to liberate the Jew from his religious myth.

Not so the Jew.

The Jew saw his way of life as enlightened, as a path graced by G-d. He saw his responsibility as a privilege, his workload as a gift, his obligation was precious. The Jew really did believe that he carried diamonds on his back; every commandment harboured great spiritual wealth, every tradition connected him with G-d. As he clambered up the mountainside he felt unencumbered and light footed. He did not feel the weight. He simply felt the joy.

On Chanukah the modern Jew celebrates the victory of this idea. He celebrates by kindling a flame as the night falls and the dark sets in. He knows that the night is long, dark and even cold yet the sacred flame that sheds G-d’s warm light buoys him.

To the Jew, the light of Chanukah is the flame of his soul, the light of Chanukah is the passion of G-d, the light of Chanukah perseveres and prevails. It is dependable and eternal despite the travails of the surrounding night.

Happy Chanukah

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