Jewish Thought

Keeping the Light of Hanukkah Going After Hanukkah

Hanukkah ended and people put away their Hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorahs) till next year. There is a wistful feeling of longing for what just was yesterday, groping for something that’s not there anymore. The ability to sing songs of praise to G-d and the special feeling Hanukkah brings have somehow dissipated. But all is not lost. A small and simple thing can make a big difference and help keep the light of Hanukkah going inside us though the Hanukkah candles have gone out.

In a nutshell, Hanukkah is about our relationship with G-d and our divine service to Him. Initially before the time of the miracle of Hanukkah there was actually a sad period of 52 years that the second temple stood empty and there was no service there. The nation was apathetic to the need to do the service in the Holy Temple. Only after the Greeks really wanted to desecrate the temple by placing idols in it did the Hasmoneans make the famous cry ‘Mi LeHashem Alei’ ‘Whoever is for G-d, Join Us’.

Rabbi Chaim Friedlander points out that in the Al-Hanisim prayer it says ‘You fought our fight’. This means that before the service in the temple became our fight there was no way for G-d to step in and fight for something we didn’t yet want. Only after we wanted it and it became ‘our fight did G-d step in and make it ‘His fight’ and bring about the Hanukkah miracles of the battles.

The Hanukkah miracle of the oil was G-d’s way of showing His pleasure with us when we decided that serving Him became our fight worth dying for.

So how do I keep that feeling going now? In Shemona Esrei we say the prayer of ‘Retzei’. “May G-d desire our prayers and service and always accept our service to him and hear our prayers”. Every day we declare how important it is to us to serve G-d and we hope that he finds our service acceptable to Him. We want to maintain our relationship with G-d and be able to continue to praise and serve Him.

This prayer is really what Hanukkah was all about; our relationship with G-d and how we want to continue to serve Him. Concentrating on this prayer and sincerely wanting to have the merit of being able to stand before G-d and praise Him can help us tap into the same desires the Hasmoneans had making serving G-d their fight. We make serving G-d our fight and desire and we hope that G-d appreciates it and ultimately enables us to do the service in the main place G-d designated for it, the Holy Temple. That is why we end the prayer with the desire to see G-d’s presence in the holy temple once again so we can serve G-d the way He wants us to in the place he want us to.

With this small prayer we already say 3 times a day we can tap into the light of Hanukkah and keep it burning inside us until next Hanukkah; may it be in the rebuilt temple!
 
 

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