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About Hanukkah

Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40 )

by Rabbi Ron Jawary

Why the Menorah is the holiday’s fitting symbol.

Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jewish nation against the Greeks (165 BCE). It's interesting that we commemorate the victory by lighting the menorah, that represents Torah and wisdom but has nothing to do with military prowess.

However, if we understand that the true struggle during that time wasn't for physical survival, but to ensure the continuity of the Torah ideology and values on which the destiny of civilization depended, we can understand why the menorah is the medium through which we commemorate it.

The Jews realized that if Greek values would prevail, humanity would be doomed. The culture of Athens and Sparta adopted the attitude of a master race, with all the evils associated with such an attitude. The Torah, on the other hand, promotes the concept of monotheism and the idea that all of mankind are created in God's image. Each and every one of us has the ability to make our world a better place, and a responsibility to respect every human.

The oil -- which represents the wisdom of Torah -- seemed to be enough for only one day, yet it burnt for 8 days, symbolizing the eternal victory of Jewish values. We all light for 8 days to teach us that just as the oil (our wisdom) transcended all limitations by burning for 8 days, so too can we be part of that destiny and illuminate the world with the Almighty's values. (Based on the teachings of Rabbi Sassoon 20th cent).

Happy Hanukkah
Shabbat Shalom

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