Question: With only enough oil to last for one day, how did the Jews react as nightfall approached at the end of that first day?
The miracle of the second candle is one of surprise, joy, and delight. With the benefit of hindsight, and with the story so entrenched in Jewish culture and consciousness, we have to work to imagine the anxiety, shock and celebration that must have ensued when the light burned past its time.
Picture the scene: Jews are gathered around the newly purified Jerusalem Temple. They hold one another, celebrating the victory, supporting one another over the losses. Nonetheless, they are keenly aware that the flame is about to go out in the Menorah. They feel the sadness that the oil, enough for one day, is almost fully consumed. This represents another loss, another bit of damage inflicted by Antiochus’ Assyrian-Greeks. Still, they congregate around the Menorah. This Jewish community wants to bask in the Light and celebrate the victory for as long as it will last.
During times of anxiety, people react in different ways.
For some, tension makes tempers flare. We imagine debates breaking out among the Maccabees over whether to continue fighting for complete political independence, or to be satisfied with having beaten the enemy back. Failing to appreciate the renewed light emanating from the Menorah, they begin arguing: “We have our menorah back: purify the oil, focus on holy, and light the flame of faith again.” “No, we must instead endure more darkness. Therefore, purify the oil, focus on the holy, and don’t abandon the fight until it is done.”
For others, miracles abound in every moment. For them, recognition grew that just being there – in Jerusalem, at the Temple, in front of the Menorah, was miraculous enough. They thought that it was foolish to waste precious moments arguing when the Light, so finite, was about to go out. They separated from the debaters to find comfort and strength in the illumination of the Menorah. And then…
Before anyone realized it, a buzz starts to go through the crowd. First one person and then another realized that the flame had been burning “too long.” There was more light, more hope, than they had dared to expect. Soon everyone was cheering and singing. The Light would not go out! The political choices were still before them, but the spiritual promise mattered more. The Light will not go out!
Tonight, as you light the second candle of Chanukah, strive to be like those who take comfort in the Light of the Menorah. Take care not to rush through the candle lighting. Take time to chant blessings, to sing songs. Tell the story if you did not tell it last night. Cherish light. Cherish family and friends. Recount the miracles, the joy and the surprises of your life.
Perhaps take a few quiet moments in front of the second candle or during the second day of Hanukah and consider:
- What are the miracles of joy, surprise, and delight in your life?
- Was there a time when you were you recovering from loss, or preparing to face an uncertain future, when you got a gift – a sudden surge of hope, of Light, a promise for the future?
For Chanukah Resources to enhance your celebration – songsheets, blessing sheets, 8 Nights of Chanukah Tzedakah, 8 stories, and more – go to www.orami.org/chanukah
Come back each night to the blog (http://rabbipaul.blogspot.com) for more 8 Blogs for 8 Nights: Answers to Questions You Never Thought About, which enhance your understanding of Chanukah. If you would answer the question differently, share your insights in a comment. I will make a donation to tzedakah for every comment written.
[Adapted from Miracle Meditations for Chanukah by Rabbi Debra Orenstein]