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Chanukah a Minor Holiday? Bah Humbug!

Thursday, 22 December, 2016 - 1:10 pm

Many of the “wise Jewish pundits” relegate Chanukah to being just a minor holiday. They argue that it does not have the work proscription like the Biblical festivals or Shabbat, the rituals associated with it are minimal, and the clincher… it only became big because of its proximity to the holiday celebrated by the general population in Western lands.

Let’s examine some of the aspects of Chanukah and its observances to see what the real picture is. Chanukah is observed by kindling the lights of the Menorah after the sun sets, in the doorway of the home facing the outside, on the left side of the door. Contrast that with the kindling of the Menorah in the Temple, which was done before sunset, inside the building and on the south side of the room.

The light of the candles represents the Torah, the light of holiness and G-dliness. The light of Hashem was brought to the world by kindling the Menorah in the Temple, from where the light spread. Symbolically, the idea of lighting the Menorah inside, during the day and to the south indicated that the light of the Menorah was not potent enough to confront opposing forces on their turf.

Night is dark, representing a concealment of G-dly revelation. The outside (public sphere) represents a place that does not recognize itself as being under Divine Sovereignty (unlike a private domain). In Kabbala, the left side represents a withdrawal of Divine Revelation, leaving a vacuum with the potential for the development of evil. So the Temple Menorah’s light was not powerful enough to contend with the forces of “the other side.” The Chanukah lights, by contrast, must be lit after sundown – thereby confronting the darkness. The Chanukah lights must be placed in the doorway facing the outside - thereby confronting the perceived independence of the public domain from Divine Sovereignty. The Chanukah lights are situated on the left side of the doorway (opposite the Mezuzah) – thereby confronting the potential for evil on its own turf.

So why is Chanukah not a work proscribed holiday? Why, for the very same reason. Chanukah brings the holiness of G-dly revelation into the mundane, the weekday, the workday. No other holiday or observance in Judaism combines all of these elements of illuminating the world in this manner. So now you tell me. Is Chanukah a minor holiday that we celebrate just to give Jewish kids something to feel good about at this time of the year? Or is it the most powerful force that is contained within Judaism?

As the darkness of the world increases, the need for Chanukah to take a front seat in the Jewish world grows. Indeed, in just the last 40 years, thanks to the Rebbe’s intiative, Chanukah observance has exploded bringing much needed light at a time when the world truly needs it.

This year, do Chanukah proudly. Celebrate openly and share your Chanukah experiences with others even via social media. As a matter of fact, Chabad is bringing back the #sharethelights campaign. Please include that hashtag in all of your Chanukah posts.

Looking forward to seeing you all at Chanukah @ Riverwalk next Tuesday. In the meantime have a Shabbat Shalom and a very happy and bright Chanukah!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

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