Recently, the results of an election for City Council in a small town in Washington State was determined by only one vote! It gets even better. When the loser was interviewed he said he had personally declined to cast a ballot for himself, stating that would’ve been “’Narcissistic’; I felt like it was stacking the deck in my favor.” Okay…
This reminded me of a story years back in Sullivan County NY. There was an election, and a small shul in White Lake NY needed a Minyan for someone who had Yahrtzait so he could recite Kaddish. Someone called a fellow Jew who was on the ballot and as an enticement to join the Minyan he said, “You have the potential for nine voters to vote for you.” His response was, “I really don’t need your votes,” and he declined from participating. Well, when the results of the election came in, he lost by nine votes!
Every person and every action he does, counts!
Over the next eight days Jews across the globe will be celebrating the Holiday of Chanukah. In truth, the Holiday may have never been established if not for the determination of a few Macabees who were determined to find ritually pure oil to kindle the Menorah in the Temple upon its rededication. They found only a single flask of pure oil which had only enough to last for one day, but it lasted for eight full days, until additional pure oil was able to be obtained. Our Sages then established the Holiday of Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of the oil.
Without a doubt, had the Macabees opted to use the plenty of ritually impure oil – which would have been permitted under the circumstances – there would not have been a miracle with the oil and the Holiday of Chanukah as we know it would not have been established.
If you think about it, points out the Bais Yosef, Chanukah should have been established for only seven days, for nothing miraculous happened in the kindling on the first day.
There are many answers offered to this famous question. What is apparent is that it was the determination of only a few Macabees – Kohanim/Priests who were in the Temple who resolved to kindle the Menorah in the most optimum way possible – with pure oil. They took it upon themselves to search for first-rate oil and they found it, and because of it, the pure oil had the capacity to miraculously last for eight days. Thus, we see that a Mitzvah that is done in its wholeness has the capacity to bring about the miraculous. Perhaps, this is why even the first day of kindling the Menorah is included in the Chanukah Miracle.
When our Sages established the Holiday of Chanukah they also included laws that govern its observance. Of overriding importance is that the Menorah should be positioned in a place that it is publicized. This is why it is lit by our windows and in Israel at the outside entrance to one’s home.
Commentators point out that the miracle of the oil being found and lasting for eight days was only seen by a few people, the Macabees/Kohanim in the Temple, but not by the general populace. When the miracle with the Menorah happened and was related to our Sages they saw to it that this miracle should be specifically publicized forever. We’re living proof of our Sages’ foresight in establishing the Holiday of Chanukah.
The Jews were under the Greek rule in Israel at the time of the Chanukah miracle. The Greeks were unlike our current nemesis, Hamas. While Hamas wishes to eradicate and murder every single Jew, under the Greek rule, they imposed laws that restricted the Jews from acting like Jews in a religious sense. The wished to blend the Jews into the Greek philosophies of worshiping themselves, rather than worshiping G-d. Foremost, they forbade the Jews from observing the Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh which determines the Holidays, and from having a Bris/circumcision.
There is a common thread running through these three essential laws. Their observance depends essentially on the individual’s personal commitment. A lot of the observances of Shabbos and the Torah obligated Holidays pertain to the person’s commitment to the laws when he is in private when no one is around or looking. The same is true with the concept behind the holiness/faithfulness that is related to the Bris area.
When we light our Menorahs in our homes facing the outside, we are essentially demonstrating that we are, thank G-d, free from such Greek tyranny.
However, we are certainly facing the emergence of the ugly head of antisemitism and war with our enemies.
This is the time when we demonstrate to the Almighty that we recognize that each of our decisions and actions count, and make a difference, whether it is done privately or publicly. We pray that just as back then G-d performed miracles at this time of the year, so too, may He respond and relieve us of all our troubles by ushering in the Moshiach. Then we will once again kindle the real Menorah in our Temple in peace, in our uncontested land of Israel!