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A Mystical Hanukah Message

One little candle can create much light. The candle’s light reminds us that our mission in life is not to shake up the world but to fasten its pegs, not to climb to the heavens and holler and roar, but to walk softly on the ground, not to create a storm but rather a dwelling–an earthly home for God’s reality to become the center of our reality.

One of my favorite 20th century Jewish mystics is Rav Abraham Isaac Kook. In one of his books, Rav Kook discusses the difference between “Chinuch” (Education) and “Hanukah” (Dedication). “Chinuch” indicates that we are preparing the stage for later growth. By training our child while they are young and impressionable with positive habits, we hope to influence him or her in future years.

Concerning the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, however, the situation is much different. Already when it was first established, it contained all of its future greatness and holiness. Future times will just fulfill the potential which existed from the very beginning. Thus the Temple’s dedication is called a “Hanukah”, in the feminine form of the word. Its state is one of intrinsic holiness and completeness.

Kook further asserts that the lights of Hanukah represent those enlightening blessings which the Jewish people, over history, have bestowed and will bestow to the world. All of the nation’s potential gifts are included in the dedication of Hanukah. These include the “light’ of Torah, Prophesy, Wisdom, Justice, Kindness, and so on.” Like the Temple, these qualities are inherent in each of us, so the word “Hanukah” is appropriate. In certain situations, each of these “lights” needs its own emphasis and distinct value, in order to retain the appropriate impact. At times, these divisions can even lead to ideological strife. Someone whose heart is close to one value in particular, may look upon those who stress other values as detracting from the principle, most important “light.” In truth, by each person advancing that value which speaks to his soul, the entire Jewish people become enriched.

Rav Kook’s message has considerable appeal.  Each of us has a powerful light that can add so much to our community,  but so does our neighbor as well. Together with our unique talents and abilities we can enrich our own Jewish community–wherever it may be.



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