The Holiday of Chanukah is celebrated for eight days. The focal point of the Holiday is lighting the candles on the Menorah, as we recite the special blessings.
The opportune time to light the Menorah is a bit past sunset and the basic law is that the flames should last for at least a half hour into the night.
Since our day begins at sundown, it emerges that at the beginning of each day of Chanukah we infuse that day with the spiritual energy of the holiday with the Menorah lighting which only must last for a rather small amount of time.
Upon reflection an idea comes to mind. Yes, the flames of the Chanukah candles don’t have to last very long, however, the spiritual impression it makes upon those gathered in the house and the onlookers in the street, lasts throughout the day. So too, the collective Mitzvos of each of the days of Chanukah give us a spiritual boost that lasts through the dark winter months that lay ahead.
This is the power of a Mitzvah – it remains with us, energizes us and uplifts us – even when the Mitzvah is a rather quick one.
I recently read a story shared by Rabbi Nota Greenblatt o.b.m.. When Rabbi Greenblatt was in Tbilisi, he visited its large synagogue. He struck up conversations with the locals and they shared an incredible story. When the communists rose to power, they planned to destroy the synagogue. Members of the community got wind of the communists’ plan and gathered to devise a game plan to avert this action. On the day set for the demolition, the entire community came out and lay down in front of the Shul. The bulldozer approached, but they didn’t budge. Eventually, the bulldozer left, and the Shul still stands today!
Aside from the amazing Mesiras Nefesh – personal devotion the Jews showed – their act of defiance for the sake of keeping their Shul alive, although it lasted a rather short time, only until the frustrated bulldozer operator turned around and left, due to their commitment to keep the Shul going, it remains standing over one hundred years later!
From this we can gain a bit of a glimpse of the awesome impact that even a seemingly small Mitzvah has, especially when one puts effort or sacrifice into it.
Our Sages established the prayer of Al Hanissim ― “on the miracles” to recite on Chanukah in the Amidah and during the blessings we recite after eating bread.
Briefly, the prayer speaks of the wicked Greeks standing up against the Jews, not to obliterate them as Haman wished and Hamas wishes to do; rather, they enforced edicts against the Jews in order that they forget the Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of G-d.
Then G-d, with great mercy, stood up for us in our distress and with just a few people, assisted us to a great victory. We regained our Temple and lit the Menorah and the days of Chanukah were established to express thanks and praise to G-d’s great name.
The word that our Sages chose to describe G-d standing up for us is “Amaditah.” The one time the word Amaditah is used in the Torah (Devorim 4:10) is when Moshe spoke to the nation before his death about the wisdom and the unique and close relationship the Jewish Nation has with G-d.
Moshe then says, “Be aware never to forget the day when Amaditah – you stood ― at the foot of Mount Sinai (Chorev) to hear and see G-d’s word when He proclaimed the Ten Commandments. Moshe instructs us to pass this on and teach it to our children.
As we mentioned, the wicked Greeks did not want to kill us. Rather, they saw our beauty, our wisdom, drive and energy and wished to benefit from it – on their terms and interests, which were in direct conflict with all the principles of Judaism.
They therefore forbade the Jews from practicing our laws and prohibited us from studying of the Torah. This way, in due time we would forget our rich legacy, mandate and special relationship with G-d and would embrace the exterior beauty, lifestyle and self-interests of the Greeks.
For the most part, the Greeks were successful in their mission, which lasted for a bit over 50 years.
However, a few Jews, primarily, the Maccabee/Chashmonoeen family held strong in their faith and stood by Moshe’s instruction to remember the day that Amaditah – we stood by Mount Sinai and became G-d’s first-born children with a unique mission. They had enough of it, and revolted against the Greek army. With G-d’s assistance they were victorious and were able to restore the Temple and G-d’s teachings and practice to the Jewish people.
Perhaps, our Sages chose the word Amaditah – He stood up ― to describe G-d responding to protect the Jews with exactly the term Moshe used to describe the Jews standing at Mount Sinai witnessing G-d’s Revelation which differentiates and raises us from all nations of the world!
This is the spiritual flash of inspiration we each receive when we observe the precious Mitzvah of the Chanukah Menorah!