The Torah describes the intricate design of the beautiful, seven branched, golden Menorah used in the Temple. Moshe was instructed to form it from a solid piece of gold, and he was unable to do so. G-d said to him, “You tried and did what you were able to do. Now, take the block of gold and place it in a fire.” Moshe did so and the complete Menorah, some five feet tall, miraculously emerged.
The Menorah in the Temple was lit late every afternoon by the Kohain. There was a ½ Log measurement of the purest olive oil placed in each of the seven cups of the Menorah. This was enough to last through the longest nights of the year. In the morning, one of the first services the Kohain did in the Temple was to clean out the residue in the Menorah and refill the oil and add new wicks.
When the Jews were worthy of miracles to occur, the Ner Maaravi – the western branch of the Menorah ― remained lit even after the other flames went out. It was from this eternal flame that the menorah was lit in the evening.
We see that the Temple was a place that did not lack miracles; specifically, the oil of the western lamp consistently lasted longer each night.
When the Macabees entered the Temple that had been plundered by the Greeks, they kindled the Menorah with a small jug of pure oil that they found. They assumed that it would last for a day, however its small content miraculously lasted seven additional days. Why did our Sages feel compelled to establish a holiday of Chanukah because of this miracle? After all, the Menorah seemed to be functioning as it had always done – in a miraculous way. True, in the past it was only one everlasting flame, and during the dedication all seven flames lit for eight days, but it is essentially the same miracle. A bit of oil lasting longer. So, what did our Sages see in this that warranted a holiday to be established?
The answer is, that there were times in the Temple’s history that the everlasting western flame would not burn past the morning just like the other six flames. When the spiritual pulse of the Jewish people was weak they did not merit that miracles should occur. Miracles happened based on the heightened level of spirituality of the Jewish people.
During the second Temple period, G-d allowed His Temple – His abode in this world ― to be taken over by the Greeks. This reflected on the dismal level of connectivity that the Jewish people had with G-d and His Torah.
When the small and devoted group of Macabees gathered the strength and courage to revolt against the massive Greek army, they were Divinely assisted to beat the Greeks, giving them the opportunity to regain the Temple. They sought to rededicate it in the most spiritual way by searching for the ritually purest oil and they finally found one jug. The miracle of the oil lasting for eight days in this instance was something special. It was a so-called kiss from G-d that He was once again willing to rekindle His relationship with the Jewish people as of old. It jumpstarted and ignited a resurgence of commitment and rededication of the Jewish people to G-d.
The lighting of the Chanukah Menorah is the only ritual that was conducted in the Temple that each and every Jew performs or is a participatnt in their very own home.
The Menorah, like any Mitzvah that we do in our homes, elevates our homes so that it attains the status of a Mikdash Me’at – a miniature Temple.
The Medrash relates that when the Romans gained access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem they were apprehensive to enter the holy confines of the Temple. They chose a recalcitrant Jew by the name of Yosef Meshisa to enter first. They made a deal with him. Whatever he takes out of the Temple will belong to him. Yosef went inside and removed the golden Menorah. Upon seeing the exquisite, one of a kind, Menorah the Romans told him this is not a regular piece that an ordinary person keeps in their home and refused to give it to him. They told him to go in again and he can take whatever he wants. This time Yosef refused to go in. They offered him a huge sum of money to go in again, and he refused by saying, “Is it not enough that I angered the Almighty by going into his Temple once, I should anger Him again?” The Romans tortured him terribly. While this was occurring, he cried out in repentance, “Woe to me that I angered my G-d.”
The question raised is, if Yosef was such a rebel that it didn’t make a difference to him to enter the Temple and take the Menorah for his personal use, what happened to him that he became so adamant about going into the Temple again?
An answer offered is, yes, Yosef had his issues with religion and gave it up. However, when he entered the Holy confines of the Temple he was engulfed by the holy spiritual environment. Although it did not immediately stop him from taking the Menorah, when he was given a moment of pause to reflect on going in again, he wasn’t the same person with that defiant attitude. The Kedusha – holiness ― of the Temple made an impression on him and changed his perspective.
With the kindling of the Chanukah Menorah we turn our homes into a so-called Temple and we create an environment of holiness for ourselves, our families and for all those who see it from the street. The Kedusha ― holiness ― of this Mitzvah impacts upon us and helps uplift us spiritually to deeper appreciate G-d, His Mitzvos, and the holy Torah we are entrusted with!