Tonight is the first light and first night of Chanukah! Happy Chanukah!
This is a holiday of miracles. And tonight is the first taste of that miracle. The rabbis of old taught that the story of Chanukah was about the miracle of the oil. In Shabbat 21b of the Talmud the Rabbis write: What is Chanukah? According to our rabbis, Chanukah begins on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev and continues for eight days. No lamentations are to be heard, fasting for whatever reason is forbidden. When the Greeks went into the Temple they desecrated the oil they found there sanctified for use by the High Priest.
When the Maccabees resisted and then overcame the Greeks, they found one cruse of sacred oil–it had been overlooked and still lay wrapped in its sacred seal. When the oil was opened and the Menorah lit, it should have lasted only a day, which was not enough for a festival or enough time to make anew supply. Then they found the oil could be relit for the eight miraculous days!
The miracle of the oil was that it never was used up! It was relit and reused to celebrate the entire week. Light was sown for the righteous! Light was brought into the world by the dedication of the Maccabees to their faith and the rededication of the sacred Temple to the worship of the Holy One of Blessing. Each night the oil was relit, reused and rekindled to bring about the light of holiness and sanctity and renewal.
In our day and time we too need to look around us at the miracles that are in plain sight. As we light the candles in our Menorah tonight let the light bring to us the opportunity to see the miracles. May the light shine in our hearts and teach us that even when we think we are used up–that we have nothing left to give– like the oil in those days we can be kindled again. We can open up our spirits and hearts to the holiness that connects us to those days and to all life. We humans are remarkably flexible. We are defeated only when we give in to defeat.
But let us be inspired by the Macabees’ determination and the story of the oil that keeps on lasting and shining forth. We can be just like them-shining forth, determined and doing God’s holy work.