HANUKAH THE FEAST OF LIGHT
Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days starting on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev.
It was instituted by Yehudá Maccabee, his brothers and the elders of the congregation of Israel, 2185 years ago, to remember the dedication of the altar and the purification of the sanctuary. Three years earlier, on the same date, Antiochus IV Epiphanes king of Syria of the Seleucid dynasty had caused a pagan altar to be erected in the temple of Jerusalem, and sacrifices offered to his idol "Olympian Zeus".
Having retaken the Holy City and the Temple, Yehudah ordered a new altar to be built in place of the contaminated one. When the fire had been rekindled on the altar and the lamps on the candlestick were lit, the dedication of the altar was celebrated for eight days amid offerings and singing.
In the aftermath of historical events, various explanations for Hanukkah transcending military contention loom very prominently in the background.
“The Sages taught that when Adam the first man saw the day progressively lessen as the days grew shorter from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice, he did not yet know that this was a normal phenomenon. That is why he said: Woe is me; perhaps because I sinned, the world turns dark around me and will eventually return to the primordial state of chaos and disorder. And this is the death that was sentenced to me from Heaven, as it is written: “And to dust you will return” (Bereshit 3:19). He got up and spent eight days in fasting and prayer. When he saw that the season of Tevet, that is, the winter solstice, had arrived, and saw that the day grew progressively longer after the solstice, he said: Clearly, the days grow shorter and then longer, and this is the order of the world. He went and organized a party for eight days. The following year, he observed these eight days on which he had fasted the previous year, and these eight days of his celebration, as days of festivities. He, Adam, established these festivals because of heaven, but they, the Gentiles of later generations, established them because of idol worship...
The Gemara explains to those who believe that the world was created in the month of Nisan, and Adam had already seen the difference between short days and long days, as the days in the northern hemisphere month of Nisan become progressively longer. long over time. The Gemara answers: Although Adam had had short days, he had not seen days as short as the days before the winter solstice. Then they taught: On the day that Adam, the first man was created, when the sun went down on him, he said: Woe is me, since because I have sinned, the world is darkening around me and the world will return to the primordial state. of chaos and disorder. And this is the death that was sentenced to me from Heaven. He spent the whole night fasting and weeping, and Havá wept in front of him. Once dawn came, he said: "Obviously, the sun sets and night comes, and this is the order of the world."
The sages of the Talmud , as we can see, masterfully knew how to detect and describe the anxiety, anguish, disappointment, despair and depression of the human being in the face of his uncertain destiny, and at the collective level in the face of uncertainty due to the continuity of the people and the transmission of Jewish values to his successors.
Therefore, when each night of Hanukkah, we add another candle, the home and the heart become brighter, shining with its radiance in our own most remote places and we publicize the miracle of our existence by placing the candles so that all passers-by can see them.
We never settle for having our light, our values, and our precepts hidden in a basement, but whenever possible, we exposed them in front of everyone.
Like Adam, when we understand that life requires going through difficult tests that seem impossible to overcome, we realize that the phenomenon is normal and that the light will prevail due to the efforts of each one and of Yehudá the Maccabee of each time and each place. , which each one can and should reproduce.
By Rabbi Yerahmiel Barylka