What is Chanukah?
Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated primarily with a nightly menorah lighting.
In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in G‑d. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple) in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of Hashem.
After re-entering the Beit Hamikdash, they attempted to light the Menorah. However, they found only a small jug of olive oil that was still pure. Everything else was contaminated by the Greeks. They decided to light with whatever they had. Miraculously, the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah.
Chanukah this year runs from Nov 28. - Dec. 6.
Some lessons that we can learn from the story and festivities of Chanuka are:
Never be afraid to stand up for what’s right. Judah Maccabee and his band faced daunting odds, but that didn’t stop them. With a prayer on their lips and faith in their heart, they entered the battle of their lives—and won. We can do the same.
Always increase in matters of goodness and Torah-observance. Sure, a single flame was good enough for yesterday, but today needs to be even better.
A little light goes a long way. The Chanukah candles are lit when dusk is falling. Perched in the doorway, they serve as a beacon for the darkening streets. No matter how dark it is outside, a candle of G‑dly goodness can transform the darkness itself into light.
Take it to the streets. Chanukah is unique in that its primary mitzvah is observed in public. It’s not enough to be a Jew at heart, or even at home. Chanukah teaches us to shine outwards into our surroundings with the G‑dly glow of mitzvahs.
Don't be ashamed to perform mitzvahs, even if you will feel different. Rather, be like a menorah, proudly proclaiming its radiant uniqueness for all to see.
This Friday, make sure to light 6 candles on the Menorah before the Shabbat candles are lit. The time for lighting is before 4:11 PM. Menorah should stay lit until at least 5:30 PM.
The following evening, light 7 candles on the Chanuka Menorah after the Havdala service, after 5:13 PM.
Shabbat Shalom! Chanuka Sameach! Chodesh Tov!