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more light #51

Happy Chanukah

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

26 December 2005

A Hebrew Blessing for Chanukah

Baruch Atah Ado-noi-Elo-hei-nu-Melech Ha-olam Asher Ki-de-sha-nu Be-mitz-vo-sav-Ve-tzi-vanu Le-had-lik Ner Cha-nu-kah

With the Christmas holiday concluding the holiday of Hanukkah, (also spelled Chanukah,) is beginning. This Religious Holiday begins after nightfall on December 25th, so December 26th is the first day of Hanukkah.

The information I have to pass on to you about this holiday comes directly from a booklet produced and given out by Byerly’s and Lund’s Grocery Stores in Minneapolis. These are my favorite Grocery Stores, and when we were there recently I picked up ‘The Chanukah Guide.’ I really enjoyed learning about Chanukah from this little booklet.

“The festival of Chanukah is about light overcoming darkness. Our world is currently experiencing a particularly dark time. We have even become apprehensive about opening the letters in our mailbox. Our sons, daughters, friends and neighbors are half way around the world, fighting an enemy that has no borders.”

“The soul of man is the lamp of G-d’ (Proverbs). Our challenge, whether we are on the front lines or fighting rush hour at home, is to bring light into the world. The reason the Chanukah candles are lit after nightfall is to remind us that even in our darkest moments, we have the potential to illuminate when we kindle a flame.”

“King Solomon wrote, ‘Everything has its season. A time to be born, a time to die. A time for war and a time for peace’ (Ecclesiastes). In Judaism peace is essential. Yet, if one is being attacked, Jewish Law forbids a passive stance. Peace and the sanctity of human life requires, at times, that one defend one’s self, one’s family and one’s country. “

“Despite the fact that the Maccabees were fewer in strength and in numbers, they stood up against the oppressor with complete faith in G-d’ a mercy. One lesson of Chanukah is that when we resolve to introduce spirituality into our lives, G-d tells his children, ‘Make for me a small opening, like the eye of a needle, and I will open for you an opening through which caravans can enter’ (Midrash). We simply need to begin the process for G-d to help us attain that which we perceived as unattainable.”

“On Chanukah we celebrate two miracles: The victory of the Maccabees over the forces of Antiochus IV in the battlefield, and the miracle of the oil, which burned for eight days. The victory on the battlefield was a miracle that affected us in a very basic and real physical sense. The miracle of the oil enabled the Jewish people to resume the service in the Holy Temple and thus was a spiritual miracle. Jews around the world recreate this miracle and spirituality today by observing Chanukah.”

The Chanukah struggle is found within each of us. Chassidic teachings explain that we have two souls. One soul is drawn to the spiritual, the other to the material. We may reconcile this duality by being involved with the material world, but toward a spiritual end. This is one reason why there are so many mitzvot in the Torah, all of them involving physical action. When the physical is engaged for spiritual purposes, the conflict is transformed into peace and harmony. A world of peace begins with inner peace. When one makes peace within, it has an effect on his or her home, environment, and eventually the entire world.”

“What does a soul look like? Look at the flame of a candle. A flame is bright, jumping, and never resting. The natural desire of a soul is to ‘jump up’ to G-d, to break free of physical limitations. The wick and candle anchor a flame, and a physical body grounds the soul, forcing the soul to do its job, to give light and warmth. The human body, precious and holy, is likened to the Holy Temple. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidism, always advised against asceticism, excessive fasting, and hurting the body. Better, he would say, to use your body to perform deeds of kindness.”

“Kindness is contagious. When our soul tells our body to do a kind deed, both the soul and body are affected. Even more, other souls around us awaken and influence their bodies to do the same. Before long we can create an international epidemic of kindness. This is one reason the Chanukah menorah is placed where it can be seen from the street, either in the doorway across from the mezuza or in the window, reminding us of our duty to share the spiritual light of warmth and wisdom with our surroundings.”

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