Change is inevitable. We’re constantly growing and evolving, and it’s not always pleasant. Life hands us unexpected challenges all the time – the trick is to find the strength, hope, and love inside yourself amid great difficulty. Whether you’re aware of it or not, those key attributes are always available to you – they’re part of your inner light. And each new challenge is an opportunity to let it shine through. That light is what the spirit of Hanukkah is all about – a reminder of the divine faith and courage that is always available to us. By taking a deeper look into the meaning behind this ancient holiday, we can better understand how its proverbial flame reflects what we all carry inside.
The Holy Light: A History
The story of Hanukkah goes back 2,500 years when a Jewish family witnessed a miracle while resisting their oppressive Syrian-Greek rulers. While re-sanctifying the desecrated Temple in Jerusalem, Judas Maccabaeus and his family had just enough olive oil to keep the Temple lit for a single day. However, despite the oil scarcity, the lamp burned miraculously for eight days. Hearing of the miracle, ancient Jewish sages proclaimed an annual eight-day festival in celebration of the redemptive power of light.
Today, we celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, with the ritualized lighting of menorah candles. The Hanukkah menorah is a multi-branched candelabra that holds nine candles – one for each night of the holy celebration plus the ‘shamash’ or ‘helper’ candle that is used to light the others. Each night, another candle is lit until the menorah is fully ablaze with light on the final night of the holiday. As we light the menorah, we step into an ancient tradition set forth by our ancestors. Hanukkah observance coincides with the fourth quarter of the lunar cycle – the darkest phase of the moon – during the darkest season of the solar year. Each night of Hanukkah grows longer than the last and concludes on the longest, darkest night of the year, heralding the coming of the Winter Solstice.
The essence of the candle’s flame on the menorah is the opened portal of all transcendence. Darkness cannot exist within the candle’s glow. A single flame holds the potential of infinity. Its very nature is growth, transformation, and expansion. When we light the menorah candles on the longest, darkest nights of the year, we honor the holy light within – even that light hidden in the darkest depths of our being. In this sense, we are the candle, and our flame is the inner light. The essence of this spiritual fire is eternal – without end and without beginning. In lighting our spirit candle night after night, we join the timeless community of soul-lighters – a radiant pillar of light whose limits are the very edges of the cosmos. Whether your sacred space hosts a glowing menorah, a tinseled tree, or a manger under a glowing star, may your days be filled with the radiant light that shines from within us all.
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