By Rabbi Dovid Markel
The Talmud (Avoda Zarah 8a) tells of Adam’s response to darkness:
“Our Rabbis taught: When Adam saw the day getting gradually shorter, he said, ‘Woe is me, perhaps because I have sinned, the world around me is being darkened and returning to its state of chaos and confusion; this then is the kind of death to which I have been sentenced from Heaven!’ So he began keeping an eight days’ fast. But as he observed the winter solstice and noted the day getting increasingly longer, he said, ‘This is the world’s course’, and he set forth to keep an eight days’ festivity. In the following year he appointed both as festivals. Now, he fixed them for the sake of Heaven, but the [heathens] appointed them for the sake of idolatry.”
The days of Chanukah generally fall in the darkest period of the year, and convey a Judaic perspective to darkness. Rather than being frightened by the intensity of the darkness we light a candle and illuminate it – as the verse (Micha 7:8) states, “although I will sit in darkness, the Lord is a light to me.”
“Man’s soul” ‘ which “is the Lord’s lamp,” as Shlomo HaMelech states (Mishlei 20:27) has the ability to take the greatest defilement and shine new light upon it.
Indeed, this is the greatest joy of the holiday of Chanukah – the tremendous joy in being able to fix that which has been broken and to re-consecrate it for G-d.
Just as in the times of the Assyrian-Greeks, where after the Temple was made impure, they were able to find a jug of oil that remained pure the same is in each and everyone of us.
The sanctuary expressed in the verse (Shemot 25:8) “they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them,” is not only the physical edifice of the temple, but the sanctuary that we build in our hearts that G-d dwells within.
However, there are at times when we bring “idolatry into the sanctuary.” We fall from a state of perfection, and holiness and are on the cusp of despair and despondency that we can once again illuminate our hearts and souls with a spirit of holiness.
It is in this darkness that we cry out “although I sit in darkness, the Lord is a light to me,” knowing that G-d’s luminescence reaches the darkest of places.
Within the recesses of the depth of our being is an essence – a pure olive oil – that is unable to be defiled. It has on it the seal of heights of holiness and it is the soul’s very attachment to the divine.
When we find that essence of our soul, not only can we illuminate our being for a moment, but that supernatural and super-rational essence can illuminate the darkest of places in a manner that is beyond the confines of nature – in a manner that touches on the number eight, above the standard order of worldly events.
This then is the lesson of Chanukah: the knowledge that within ourselves is the ability to illuminate our greatest darkness and re-consecrate ourselves to G-d. It is on this joy, one that transforms darkness, that we can have the ultimate happiness of the full hallel.
May we indeed, find this oil within ourselves, light both our own lamps and those around us, and illuminate the world to an extent that we banish darkness completely.
A time that will be as the verse (Yishayahu 30:26) states: “And the light of the moon shall be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of the seven days, on the day the Lord shall bind the fracture of His people, and the stroke of their wound He shall heal.”