By Rabbi Amichai Cohen
The Ohr Haganuz
The Midrash says that the original light of creation was used by Adam and Eve for 36 hours. The Kabbalists say that these 36 hours correspond to the 36 candles which we light on Chanukah.
To further elaborate what this means allow me explain. Light or fire is the most ethereal creation. While neither gas nor matter, fire ever so elegantly reminds us of the metaphysical creation which alludes our physical perception. The light of fire and specifically the light of a candle reminds us of our spiritual reality, a reality which needs reminding of, a reality which is forgotten by the constant chatter of the day to day, rapid technological, push notification, fast paced rat race of most of our lives.
Fire however can become a destructive force. Instead of a dance of ethereal bliss, If uncontrolled, fire can be the force of doom and disaster.
That is why the Midrash says that G-d saw that the wicked can take advantage of the potential fire, G-d hid that light of creation “for the righteous in the time to come” as well “G-d hid this light within the Torah”.
The hidden light
The hidden light of creation is also found within us as individuals. Just as the light of creation must be caught after and earned, so too the divine, supernatural light which exists within us needs to be accessed via self sacrifice. Self sacrifice, does not necessarily mean dying for a purpose greater than one self, the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that it means forgoing one’s will. It can be as trivial as not taking a second serving of dessert, to pulling an all nighter to deliver what we promised. Self sacrifice is essentially, transcending the intellect.
The battle of intellect and above intellect was at the core of the battle of the Greeks and the Maccabees.
It is known that the Greeks valued the intellect and the body as the supreme human features. When they came in contact with the Jewish people, they met a wise nation with a rich history and culture. The Greeks thought that the Jewish people would be the perfect recipients of the Hellenistic culture. They were however rebuffed by a people who adhered to Torah in a very different way than they were used to. In Judaism, the intellect serves the creator, as opposed to the man made, imperfect deity. At the heart of the battle was the recognition of the transcendent spirit of the Torah vs. the intellectual what you see is what you get reality.
When the Greeks entered the Temple they did not destroy the beautiful structure, they rather defiled the olive oil which was used to light the Menorah (Candelabra), by merely touching it, something which makes the oil ritually impure.
The Hashmonai family, led by Matityahu, the high priest led a courageous military victory which miraculously defeated the tremendous Greek military arsenal.
When the Maccabees entered the Temple they did not find any pure olive oil which had the unbroken seal. As if out of no where, in the chamber of the high priest, the Maccabees found a jug of pure olive oil with an unbroken seal. With the newfound oil, the Maccabees lit the Menorah in the Temple. The oil miraculously lasted for 8 days.
The victory of Chanukah was indeed a great military victory, however at it’s core the spiritual victory of the transcendent spirit of the Torah. The hidden jug represents the Ohr Haganuz, the transcendent light which preceded creation. The Maccabees accessed that light which charged them with the indomitable spirit, giving them the victory of the few over the many and light over darkness.
How do we access the lesson of Chanukah and access the Oh Haganuz?
The great book of the Zohar or light, written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is a revelation of the hidden light, the Ohr Haganuz, “G-d hid his light within the Torah”. Within the timeless teaching of the Torah, especially as illuminated by Kabbalah and Chassidut, we come face to face with that hidden jug of pure olive oil, the Ohr Ganuz of our souls and of the universe.
The lights of Chanukah are the very lights of the Our Haganuz. Chanukah means education, because we learn to educate our selves in seeing this light within our selves as well as all around us. We also recognize the supreme importance of education. Without deeply learning, and delving into the ocean of wisdom, we become susceptible to the influences of popular culture. and become estranged from our hidden jug of pure olive oil. Torah is the very education of the Maccabees and the way we can access the Ohr Haganuz, the blissful light of creation.
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