Hanukkah is the only feast that originated in the land of Israel. Pesach was in Egypt, Purim in Persia, Shavuot and Sukkot in the desert. Hanukkah happened here. The Holy Temple was cleansed and rededicated and the miracle of the menorah lights occurred. Light broke in and overcame the darkness.
The details of the menorah are significant, e.g., the almond decoration. Almonds depict eyes and the light of the menorah enables us to see. The main purpose of lighting the Hanukkah lights is to see them, and not to use them for any practical purpose besides enjoying and sharing their radiance with others, which is why we place them by a window or in the front doorway when possible. We see the lovely dancing lights and enjoy their beauty and remember; “He Who watches Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” As the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (z”l) said, “HaShem’s eyes are glued to this Land – and ours should be too.”
He also said something I had not considered before: “The downfall of the world is, ‘And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating’ (Gen. 3:6). The way Chava (Eve) looked at the tree was the beginning of all darkness.” Hanukkah is about seeing the light and the redemption of Hanukkah is “…when we fix the way we look at anything in the world.”
The golden menorah in the Holy Place stood for the light of God’s Word – His Torah – His teachings for mankind. When we study the Scriptures throughout the year we should be asking ourselves, for example: “What am I learning from this Word? Is it making me more holy? Am I walking in its ways to the best of my ability?”
But at Hanukkah, as Shlomo Carlebach also reminds us, we are simply seeing the lights and being. “No calculations, no expectations; I’m just looking at the light and I’m so glad it’s there.”