The Chaplain's Corner: Chanukah, the eight-day holiday of miracles

  • Published
  • By Chaplain, Lt Colonel Michael S. Tinnon
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Chaplain
As Chanukah, the eight-day holiday of miracles, approaches, I extend my sincere wishes for a happy and inspiring Chanukah. The message of Chanukah is important and timely for all Jews, but even more so to Jews living in surroundings with comparatively little Jewish vitality and activity. It is precisely in such circumstances that Chanukah offers many an insightful and useful lesson.

Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, happened more than 2,200 years ago and recalls the story and victory of a militarily weak but spiritually strong Jewish nation's struggle over the mighty forces of a ruthless enemy that had overrun the Holy Land and threatened to engulf the land and its people in darkness.

The miraculous victory, culminating with the rededication of the Sanctuary in Jerusalem and rekindling of the Menorah which had been desecrated and extinguished by the enemy, has been celebrated annually ever since during these eight days of Chanukah. The symbolic lighting the Chanukah Menorah serves as a reminder of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness.

It is a timely and reassuring message, for the forces of darkness are ever-present. Moreover, the danger does not come exclusively from outside; it often lurks close to home, in the form of the insidious erosion of time-honored values and principles that are the foundation of any decent human society. Needless to say, darkness is not chased away by brooms and sticks, but by illumination. The sages remind us, "A little light expels a lot of darkness."

The Chanukah Light reminds us in a most obvious way that illumination begins at home, within oneself and one's family, by increasing and intensifying the light of the Torah and Mitzvot in the everyday experience, even as the Chanukah Lights are kindled in growing numbers from day to day.

But though it begins at home, it does not stop there. Such is the nature of light that when one kindles a light for one's own benefit, it also benefits all who are in the vicinity. Indeed, the Chanukah Lights are expressly meant to illuminate the "outside," symbolically alluding to the duty to bring light also to those who, for one reason or another, still walk in darkness.

What is true of the individual is true of a nation, especially the great United States, united under God, and generously blessed by God with material as well as spiritual riches and resources. It is surely the duty and privilege of this Nation to promote all the forces of light both at home and abroad, and in a steadily growing measure.

Best wishes for a joyous and spiritually uplifting Chanukah.

(Editor's Note:  Chanukah begins at sundown on Dec. 12 and lasts through Dec. 19)