In thinking about Kislev, I went right to the dreidel and the Hanukkiah. I decided that if I had to pick one, it’s the Hanukkiah (but I may explore the other dreidels later in the month!) The Hanukkiah is the nine-branched menorah that we light on Hanukkah. Even though we generally just call it a menorah, not all menorahs are for Hanukkah! The menorah, which is an ancient symbol of the Jewish people is actually seven branched.
If the menorah is considered “the most central role of all the sacred vessels, for it is the symbol of light,” and a symbol of spiritual illumination — then it’s safe to assume that this is also the role the Hanukkiah plays. Hanukkah is a strange holiday because it’s not only post-biblical, but also two holidays smooshed together. I guess we have a lot of holidays that are two smooshed together, though. Most commonly Hanukkah is the holiday that celebrates the victory of the Maccabbees over the Greeks, and the “miracle of the oil.” It’s also a Winter Solstice (Tekufat Tevet) holiday, that acknowledges the darkness of the year and returning of the light. That’s actually found in ancient midrash, it’s not just some modern “new agey” thing. It’s even one of the stories I included in the Hanukkah Haggadah!
The lighting of the Hanukkah menorah offers wonderful opportunities for spiritual refreshment and renewal. This year, toss away the annual debates over whether or not Hanukkah is important or just a reaction to Christmas. Don’t worry about the ethics of celebrating the victory in a war (and that the Maccabees were total zealots, who probably would have killed many of us too…). Embrace our own holiday of lights at its root level — light.
What do you want to light up? What areas of your life, your heart, your soul need light? Dedicate your entire Hanukkiah to bringing light into an area in your life. Let each candle represent a step along the way, and watch the light grow over the eight days! Take this time to rededicate yourself — to whatever you need to rededicate yourself. Bring back the light in your own life, and rejoice in our very special holiday of lights!