Ask a first grader in any yeshiva what Chanukah is all about and he/she will tell you how a small container of pure olive oil that had somehow been overlooked by rampaging Greek soldiers miraculously burned for eight days and nights. But as the yom tov of Chanukah draws near, I can’t help but wonder what the neis that took place so many years ago in the Bais Hamikdash truly means to us here and now in 2019.
While there is no doubt that it was miraculous for a small jug of oil to fuel the menorah for a full eight days, that oil actually lasted far longer; and it continues burning brightly, even now, hundreds of years later. Pressed into service in the Bais Hamikdash as the Maccabim emerged victorious over the mighty Greek army, that oil became the source of the everlasting light of freedom and the hope for the future that we as a nation carry with us even today.
While the flames of Jewish pride and optimism still live on in our hearts, we see all too often that there are many among us who are cast aside and forgotten, unable to show their true light as they struggle with pain that most of us cannot begin to imagine. As members of the Torah community, we are all responsible to offer our support, our friendship and our hearts to those whose inner flame has been dimmed by abuse, addiction and mental health issues, helping them through the difficulties that haunt them day and night. By becoming pillars of strength to those who are hurting, we can rekindle the spark deep inside, giving them the ability to shine again, spreading the glow that emanated from that miraculous jug of oil throughout the world and to their future generations.
As we say in Al Hanisim, the miracle of Chanukah may have taken place in days gone by, but it has continued to unfold in every generation; and it is still taking place in contemporary times, in every community and in every culture. Given the unprecedented challenges taking place in our generation, we need to understand that each of us is obligated to do our part to ensure that the flames lit in the Bais Hamikdash continue to burn brightly by being a source of light for those surrounded by darkness. As you prepare to spend a festive yom tov with your family and friends, take an extra moment to show concern and compassion for those who are struggling. Ask someone who is going through a difficult period to come over for candle lighting and maybe even play a game of dreidel. Invite that friend or a neighbor who hasn’t had it easy over to enjoy a batch of latkes, fresh from the frying pan.
If we learn nothing else from the story of Chanukah, it is that a few determined individuals can change the world. Every single one of us has the ability to be that person – so as you celebrate the miracles that took place centuries ago, be the Maccabi in today’s Chanukah story by showing someone else that you care. As in days gone by, your actions have the potential to change the course of someone’s history in an amazing way, creating a modern day Chanukah miracle whose impact can echo for generations to come.
Zvi Gluck is the director of Amudim, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the Jewish community, and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 20 years. For more information go to www.amudim.org.