Hanukah in the Inner Dimensions
by Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi
Tradition is a tricky thing. It has many layers, and in order to find the inner meaning of it one needs to dig down to the mysteries. On the outer layer of Judaism it seems that Judaism deals a lot with history, and so Passover is a ritual for the memory of the exodus, Shabbat is for remembering the seven days of creation, and Hanukah is there to remind us of the victory of the Jewish religious underground zealots over the Greek empire.
But this is only the outer understanding of the Jewish tradition. It is good, maybe, for those who seek to keep the nation together, but if you are a spiritual seeker, a seeker of real God — what you look for is rituals that have the power of transformation in the present moment, rituals that can help you, as an individual, connect with the Divine source. And this is what you can always find in the inner layer of the Jewish tradition if you just dare to dig down deep enough.
What I want to do now is to tell the story of Hanukah, as it is written in the Talmud, and then interpret it inwardly, according to the teachings of the great Hasidic masters.
The story of Hanukah
The well known Talmudic story tells us that when the Greek people took over Jerusalem they entered the sacred chambers of the temple, opened all the barrels of olive oil that were kept there, and violated the place. Then, when the Makabees won the war against the troops of Antiochus the Greek, and renovated and purified the temple, they needed pure olive oil in order to light the candles of the Menorah, but they could not find any. They only found one jar of olive oil, that was kept sealed by the high priest. It was a very small jar, that had enough oil for one day only. Though they were happy to find it, they knew it would be a few more days until they would have fresh oil. They decided to light the Menorah at least for that one day, but the oil did not end . It lasted for another day and another day, 8 days in all, until they got the new oil, and could bring the temple again to its’ daily sacred ritual routine. In memory of this miracle the Jewish people decided to celebrate each year these eight days, by lighting candles in every household. This is the outer layer of the Hanukah story.
What does this story mean for us?
Now – let us see the story in symbolic language, and apply it to our inner tale of spiritual development. Each of us IS a temple. The definition of a temple in my eyes is a place where there is a sacred unification (Zivug) between the Divine Masculine Emptiness (Ayin, in Kabbalah) and the Divine Feminine Fulness of existence (the Shechina in Kabbalah). Many times our temple is knocked out by all kinds of “intruders”: foreign influences that come from the outside and try to force themselves upon us. Symbolically they place an idol in our psyche, and seduce us to worship it: be it money, glory, fame, or any other way of social conformism. All kinds of idols are trying to take over our inner temples, and make us desert the authentic truth of our deep heart.
Inner Light and Darkness
Olive oil is a Kabbalistic symbol for spiritual wisdom. In ancient times oil was used to bring light same as today we symbolism a new Aha moment as a light-bulb turning on in our mind. The influences that come from the outside might create a big mess and confusion inside our temples, and contaminate our pure oils i.e our natural wisdom. We can then no longer light our inner sacred Menorah, and darkness prevails within us.
Hanukah is always celebrated around winter solstice which is the darkest of the year. But the outer darkness is only a symbol for the inner one. Inner darkness is this feeling of deep confusion, when your vision is unclear, when life seems to be going nowhere and you feel like you have no real purpose. No-one and nothing is exciting you anymore. Depression and depletion might follow the loss of vision, purpose and connection.
Finding your little jar
The miracle of Hanukah in the inner realms is that even when one is totally invaded by foreign influences, and feels so far from oneself, confused and depressed, even then there is actually “a little jar” of authentic inner wisdom that is well sealed and untouched. It comes from your innermost core which is “the high priest” within you. There is always a deep knowing within us that is untouched by foreign influences. If we dare to look for it and disregard anything that other people told us, ignoring even those “inner voices” within our heads that are actually the voices of our educators and society (the “Super-Ego”) we might find a little small voice within us that always knows where our life vision is but is usually silenced by the lord voices of “the invaders”.
This “ little jar of our olive-oil” might be indeed small. It might not have all the answers to all your questions. Therefore you might think that there is no real help in finding it. But this is where you are actually tested: can you be part of a miracle? Be present with what IS, and let go of the worry that it might not be enough. Open this little jar and use it even “for one day”, even if it shows you only one little step ahead. Trust. Once you took one step in the right direction the next step will be revealed. If you dare to use this little amount of “pure oil” you will feel the most amazing miracle: the miracle of being alive AS YOU.
Intentions for the ritual:
Before you start the ritual it is good to take some moments to meditate. Ask yourself what really turns you on? It might be silly, it might be something that makes no sense. do not get judgmental about it. what turns you on in an authentic way, regardless of the voices of society that try to tell you what “should” turn you on is the voice of your authentic inner wisdom. Follow it. Let this little light guide you. Light the Shamash as a symbol for what you found. Interestingly the Shamash, even though it lights all the other candles, is not considers a candle of Hanuka. What turns you on doesn’t need to be “so holy”, it just need to tonight the fire…
When you take the Shamash in your hand to light the candles of Hanukah keep this intention in mind: I am taking the little spark of authentic inner light that i have even in the darkest moments and with it I am lighting all the other aspects of my life.
than bring the light from what turns you on authentically to all those other aspects – one candle at a time:
The Candles and the Sefirot of the Tree of Life
As you light the eight candles on the eight days of Hanukah you may want to know what each candle stands for Kabalistically (based on the writings of R. Zadok HaCohan of Lublin):
According to the Tree of Life the pure light source that you find inside comes from your deep source that was never contaminated—this is your Keter or Crown. In Jungian Psychology it is the light of Self.
The 1st candle stands for Hohma or Inner Wisdom.
The 2nd candle stands for Binah or Deep Understanding.
Hesed which is Love and Grace is what the 3rd candle stands for.
The 4th candle sheds light on the need to have Sacred Discipline — Gevurah.
The 5th candle stands for Tiferet or Compassion.
The 6th candle stands for Netsach or Confidence and the 7th stands for Hod or Pure Innocence.
the 8th candle seals it all with the power of Yesod which is the Seal of Truth, Authentic Connections to oneself and others.
May we all take part in creating miracles of light by daring to live our pure authentic life.