The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates how a small group of Jews defeated the mighty Greek army when the Greeks were oppressing them—not allowing them to practice Judaism. Many Jews at that time were assimilating into Greek culture and becoming Hellenists. Hanukkah celebrates those Jews who stayed true to their tradition and resisted the pressure of the times to follow the enticing philosophies and teachings of their surrounding culture.
Another miracle that took place on Hanukkah is that after they had won the battle, the group of Jews, known as the Maccabees, found only enough oil in the Temple to light the menorah for one day, but it lasted eight days. Thus the reason why we light a nine-pronged menorah on Hanukkah, adding one candle for each night, with the additional prong for the Shamash, the candle which lights the other candles.
Recently I started typing up the Torah notes that my mother has taken over the years‚ including those which she compiled into speeches to honor the memory of my grandparents and my father. As I continue this worthy pursuit on Hanukkah, I think about the miracle of the oil. And how it can serve as a metaphor for the struggle of assimilation.
First let me say that some people do not see assimilating as a problem. Some are happy to integrate into their surrounding culture and shed the traditions of their ancestors. Yet others hold onto these cherished traditions, wanting ever so dearly to pass them on to their children and future generations.
Recently I have not been feeling so inspired. I continue my practice of Jewish laws, but my passion and excitement for them has dulled as well as become buried under my responsibilities as a mom, not to mention a working mom.
My mom was always my role model for passion for Jewish learning growing up. And it is refreshing to read over her thoughts on Torah and prayer. As I review them, a spark within me is relit. It is spiritually rejuvenating.
The miracle of Hanukkah: oil meant to last for one day lasts for eight; the passion of one Jew is internalized and passed on for seven generations—can you imagine?
If only it were that easy!
As my mom notes in the next section of her notebook which I’m about to type up, each child must have a personal relationship with the Torah and with G-d.
True, one person’s passion cannot translate into another’s. But it can surely nurture the flame. And that person’s flame can nurture another’s, and on and on.