The holiday of Chanukah falls out during the darkest time of the year- both physically and spiritually. On these cold, long winter nights, it can be challenging to not feel a little down- even if you are a night owl and you enjoy the cold, and even if you are generally a positive person. On the spiritual side, the glow of the Yomin Noraim may have begun to wear off over the past two months, taking any resolve and clarity you may have achieved along with it.
But, it’s precisely at this time that we kindle the Chanukah lights- lights that are a beacon of hope, strength, endurance, and wisdom.
The Zohar teaches that the source of the Chanukah light is Or HaGanuz -the hidden, awesome light with which HaShem created the world and gave us the Torah, and the same light that will eventually reappear during the days of Moshiach to usher in the end of our exile. Or HaGanuz is also the pure light of emes that each of us has inside, the Pintele Yid (the Jewish Spark) that can never be extinguished. It is the light that pushes away all the internal confusion, doubt, anger, and fear and gives us the strength and clarity to believe, to persevere, to embrace positive change, and to choose life.
Through the light of the Chanukah candles, all the darkness of the world is illuminated.
The Light Hidden in the Fifth Night of Chanukah
While Chanukah comes at a time of darkness, Chazal tell us that the darkness of fifth night of Chanukah is even greater because the fifth night can never fall on the Shabbos.
Though “darkness” in a physical sense means absence of light; in a spiritual sense it means that HaShem’s Presence is more hidden from us. We have a harder time seeing and feeling HaShem’s guiding Hand and we fail to recognize the abundant blessings that He constantly sends our way.
On all the other nights of Chanukah, the light of the candles is enhanced by the light and kedusha of Shabbos. The Holy Shabbos is not only a testimony to the fact that HaShem created the world, it is the day in which the world is infused with renewed spiritually and physical blessing. On the fifth night, without this influence of Shabbos, the light of Chanukah alone illuminates all the darkness.
Thus, even in the darkest of times when all seems lost, when HaShem’s Presence is hidden, when the flow of Heavenly assistance, blessing, and rachamim seems shut off, when we are overcome with feelings of confusion, fear, doubt, and depression, the light of Chanukah continues to shine bright.
The Light of Hanukkah and the Illusion of Separation
One night after lighting the Chanukah candles, my husband made an interesting observation. He pointed out that on the fifth night it is the first time that we start lighting candles on the other side of the menorah. (In other words, on a typical menorah that has the shamash candle in the middle, on the fifth night you would have four candles on one side, and a fifth, by itself, on the other side). Then, he made a comment about how separate and the “lonely” that fifth candle is since it is by itself on the other side.
This got me thinking…
What’s so unique about the solitude of the fifth candle; what about the first night?
The truth is that loneliness and separation can only happen when there is the feeling of “me” versus “them,” when we are presented with people, events, and forces that we feel we have no control over, when we lose touch with the Unifying Reality and Divine Purpose that binds everything together.
While HaShem created a world that appears to be full of disparate entities and forces, a world of nature and its laws, the reality is that it is all one big cover up. Chazal tell us that all of creation is a unified manifestation of HaShem and His Torah. It’s this very illusion of multiplicity that the light of Chanukah dispels. Even within the darkness itself, the spiritual Light of HaShem can be found by anyone who chooses to seek it.