An Enlightened Nation
This coming Sunday night we will light the first candle of Chanukah.
Chanukah is “The Holiday of Lights” and this is an opportunity to talk about the Light in Hebrew.
Light was the first creation.
And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. (Genesis 1,3)
The word “Light” in Hebrew
is “OR” – אור
The name of our institution “ULPAN-OR” actually means:
“Teaching/Studying (with) Light”
Therefore, we at Ulpan-Or feel especially attached to the holiday of Chanukah and we would now like to share with you some thoughts regarding the tradition to light candles on Chanukah.
What is the Message of Chanukah Lights?
The unique significance of the Chanukah lights is linked to the nature of the miracle they commemorate.
The miracle of Chanukah took place during the period of the second temple, more than 2,000 years ago in a time of darkness, when the Greeks sought to impose their culture upon the people of Israel, denying them of the very fundamentals of the tradition of Israel.
They did not want to physically destroy the Jewish people, the plot was much more dangerous – spiritual destruction!!
Hellenism, a blend of hedonism and philosophy, could not be resisted by the conventional tools of Jewish learning and tradition.
For “the people of the book” it was very tempting to get familiar with it and experience it in practice. The challenge faced by the Jewish people at that time was unlike any that had confronted them before.
The Greeks wanted to deny the People of Israel to perform their spiritual duties in the holy Temple.
At those times high percentage of the Jewish people converted to become and act as Greeks.
The minority of Jewish people led by Maccabees fought the outnumbering Greeks, defeated them, and rededicated the Temple.
Since the Jewish victory involved the transformation of darkness into light, Chanukah candle lights which commemorate this transformation, also have this special power.
The message the candle lights carry is that when confronted with darkness, we must not resign ourselves to it.
We can fight it and transform darkness into light. We also must reach out and spread light as far as we possibly can, illuminating not only our homes, but the public domain as well.
The visible light of the Chanukah candles indicates that the positive effects generated by lighting those are apparent in our material world as well as in the spiritual realm.
Chanukah lights, which burn in the darkness of the night, demonstrate moreover that we can achieve this positive effect not only during daylight which symbolizes the times of comfort, but also in times of darkness, when effort is necessary to transform the darkness into light around us.
On Chanukah we start with lighting one candle on the first day. Each day we increase the number of candles lit. On the last – eighth day, we light eight candles.
A story is told about Rabbi Yehonatan Aybeshitz.
When Yehonatan was a little boy, he was punished for his mischief behavior and the teacher told him that he would escape the punishment only after calculating the total number of candles lit throughout the Chanukah holiday.
The teacher thought it would really take a long time for Yehonatan to make the calculation.
But little Yehonatan came immediately back with a brilliant answer:
(Before you read the answer – try to calculate it on your own – just sum the series…)
Hint: When calculating, please take into account the candle of “Shamash” (servant) which is also lit every day…
Little Yehonatan said:
The Bible tells us exactly: (Psalms Chapter 124, 7)
נַפְשֵׁנוּ כְּצִפּוֹר נִמְלְטָה, מִפַּח יוֹקְשִׁים
הַפַּח נִשְׁבָּר, וַאֲנַחְנוּ נִמְלָטְנוּ
Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
What Yehonatan meant is this:
In Hebrew the word פח has several meanings:
2. jar (of oil)
פח has the numerical value (Gematria) of 88.
When it’s broken (as in the above verse) into two halves then we get a half of 88 = 44.
Forty four (44) is indeed the total number of the candles lit during Chanukah.
And little Yehonatan indeed escaped the punishment.
Let’s now mention a famous person with “Light” in his name.
The verb “Lighten / Shine” in Hebrew is “MEIR” – מאיר
in the future tense it’s YAIR – יאיר
Avraham Stern (Nickname Yair – יאיר) was the founder and leader of the underground Zionist organization later known as “LECHI”.
He was born around Chanukah time in 1907.
Avraham Stern founded LEHI in 1940 and adapted for himself the alias Yair.
The settlement Kokhav Yair is named after him.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
to find out what our special programs with a Chanukah discount Ulpan-Or have to offer you to dramatically improve your Hebrew.
Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach,
Yoel & Orly
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