Today, the most unusual way to light the Hanukkah candles could very well be the original way that these candles were lit.
A candle contains oil and a wick. The wick lets us alight and burn the oil, which rises up the wick. The oil and the wick will set ablaze only when the oil seeps into the wick, which then lights up the candle.
This depiction of lighting a Hanukkah candle is not unusual in and of itself. However, if we look at what this process represents, then it would appear unusual to anyone who was raised thinking that lighting a candle begins and ends with an external action alone.
Rather, the process is an internal one.
The wick represents the rejection of light, i.e., the rejection of receiving pleasure for self-benefit.
The oil represents the fuel that we have to reject self-aimed pleasure. However, the oil cannot burn by itself. We thus need to understand that we change our growing desire to enjoy for self-benefit by working to invert it into its opposite form: a desire to love and bestow. It is written about this change: “The evil angel becomes the good one,” and “The angel of death becomes the angel of life.”
The Maccabees found a cruse of oil because they had been trying to positively connect to each other in order to attain the quality of love and bestowal. They could light that oil because they had great resistance to those who bowed before Greek idols and constructed Greek temples in Jerusalem. The Greeks represent the will to control our desires, i.e., that we reason first and foremost that we personally benefit from a certain effort.
The war of the Maccabees is a war that we conduct within. When we overcome our resistance to love, bestow and positively connect to others, we change the hatred that fuels our conflict into a wick in the oil, which we can light.
Therefore, the cruse of oil with a wick represents a person’s inner spiritual work of rising above desires for self-benefit, and entering into a new desire to love, bestow and positively connect to others.
When the Maccabees overcame the resistance of their reason, which dictates that self-benefit should always prioritize and justify benefiting others, and they unified, then they found the cruse of oil where they were able to insert the wick into and light. In other words, they changed their desire for self-benefit into a desire for love, bestowal and positive connection, and the upper light—the quality of love and bestowal—illuminated their souls.
That is the Hanukkah miracle.
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