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Home » Chanukah, Education

Chanukah: Getting it Right

Submitted by on December 21, 2008 – 1:32 amNo Comment | 10,347 views

The Loophole

Chanukah commemorates the miracle of lights, but it is much more than kindling a light, Chanukah is about getting it right.

 When the Macabes entered the Holy Temple after it had been ransacked by the Greeks they were eager to kindle the great Menorah (candelabra). However, despite their best efforts, they found only one cruse of ritually pure olive oil. It would take eight days to produce more olive oil. Undeterred, they kindled the lights on the first night and the candles burned miraculously for eight full days.

Jewish law stipulates that restrictions of ritual impurity are lifted when the entire community is in a state of impurity. Under the circumstances, the candelabra, a ritual that represented the community at large, could have been kindled with impure olive oil. Yet G-d performed a miracle to enable the Macabes to use pure oil. We know that G-d does not perform a miracle in vain, which raises the question, why did G-d perform this miracle when the Macabes could have relied on the aforementioned loophole to light the candles?

It has been suggested that the Macabes did not want to rely on this leniency because this kindling would inaugurate the renewed service in the Temple. This kindling represented a fresh beginning. And beginnings ought to be done correctly.

True Beginnings

There is a distinct difference between raising an athlete and raising a believing Jew. Athletes are broken in slowly. When they are young, athletes are introduced to soft versions of their sport. As they mature they are slowly exposed to more rigorous exercises and more challenging competition. They are brought along slowly till they reach their peak.

Raising a believing Jew is different.getting it right - innerstream We don’t teach children to seek out loopholes and lenient approaches to Judaism because we realize that the time to inculcate dedication to Torah values is indeed during youth. If we teach children to be satisfied with a watered down version of Judaism we can expect them to continue this thread in adulthood.

Our sages reflected that all beginnings are difficult. It is difficult to embark on a new path and ensure that it is done properly. But once a proper attitude is established we have reason to expect the child to continue and even strengthen his/her enthusiasm and commitment.


Chanukah was indeed a time of renewal and dedication. The Macabes stood poised to reintroduce the Temple rituals to their people. This was not the time to seek loopholes and settle for leniency; this ritual would set the tone for a new generation of Divine worship. They were not prepared to light the candelabra with impure oil. They desperately sought a bottle of pure oil. G-d smiled upon them and granted their wish. He performed two miracles. First He enabled them to find a bottle of pure oil, the seal, affixed by the High Priest, unbroken by the Greeks. Then He performed a miracle that enabled the single bottle to burn for eight full days, till new oil could be produced and delivered.

These miracles were not in vain. They validated the Macabe’s quest for true and pure beginnings.

Chanukah also means education. As we educate our children we must ensure that they appreciate even the slight nuances of our faith and embrace it with enthusiasm. It is easy to dismiss the importance of this point and argue that mere children need not be exposed to the full extent of our religious commitment.  But we know that our children deserve better. They deserve an opportunity to be shown the beauty and delight of our religion; the beauty that can only be seen in the unabridged truth of our sacred calling.

Chanukah, is not just about kindling a light, Chanukah is about getting it right. Same is true of education. It is not just about teaching a loophole, it is about directing a soul. (1)


  1. Toras Menachem 5714.

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