Meaningful Light

Hanukkah is a time of miracles. But which miracles? Maybe it is the miracle of the Maccabees. How else could we explain a small group of zealots being able to beat the stronger forces and regain control of the Temple? Maybe it is the miracle of the oil. What is the explanation for how a small jar pure oil that was only enough to last for one day could last for eight days? Or maybe the miracle is what I wrote about last week, the miracles that in retelling the story of the second miracle of the oil we were successful in overshadowing the first miracle of a civil war. But maybe there is yet another answer for why Hanukkah is time of miracles. Maybe the essence of Hanukkah is our ability to find meaning in history.

Hanukkah is in the depth of winter when the days are short and  the nights are long. What has all of our work on this world accomplished? It is understandable that we might be afraid of emptiness of the cold night sky. Time might passing us by, but what is our place in the universe? It is easy getting lost in the expanse of stars. Our lives seem infinitesimal in the context of the ever-expanding universe.

In the spirit of the holiday I was up last night I was up late reading as I am up tonight writing.  I had the pleasure of reviewing the end of Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal‘s Em HaBanim Semeichah.  In this amazing book Rabbi Teichtal refutes the anti- Zionism of his Hungarian Orthodox upbringing  and beautifully lays out a vision of redemption realized in a Jewish State of Israel. I have written about this book and Rabbi Teichtal in past posts. There in the conclusion we read:

This printing of this book began on parashat VaEira , 5703[1943], and was completed successfully on Thursday, parashat Miketz, the second day of Hanukkah, 5704 [1943]. May HaShem recall the miracles that God performed for our forefathers in those days and renew them for us today. May the following verses be fulfilled through us, “He puts an end to the darkness” ( Job 28:3) and ” The Jews had light and gladness and joy” ( Esther 8:16). So may it be for us, speedily in our days. Amen.

The project of Rabbi Teichtal’s  book was looking at all of the anti-Zionist sources that he grew up with through the lens of the history.  Every shred of his being was trying to make sense of the horrors of the Holocaust. In the depths of this darkness Rabbi Teichtal was looking for the light of meaning. It has been exactly 70 years since Rabbi Teichtal finished this opus on redemption and return. I was haunting reading these words in the middle of the night on Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is truly a holiday of miracles, but maybe it does not matter which miracles. Maybe the holiday itself is an invitation for us to see world history through the lens that there is meaning in the world. Perhaps the idea of miracles itself is human projection of meaning casting light into the darkness of an otherwise meaningless universe.

Unfortunately Rabbi Teichtal was not able to live out his Zionist dreams. He was murdered on a transport train in 1945 during the closing days of World War II. On this Hanukkah I hope that we are all blessed to be inspired by the memory  of Rabbi Teichtal z”l who’s light continues to shine despite having experienced the darkest era the world has ever known. Perhaps we can be inspired to cultivate in ourselves the curiosity and desire to seek out or project a meaningful light into the depths of our darkness.


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