How much of our reality exists in the realm of the hidden, beyond that which our eyes can see? Living in a technologically advanced age we take it for granted that a great many of the modern conveniences we enjoy and rely upon, such as wireless communications, are built upon intangible energy modes that cannot be seen. But imagine traveling back two hundred years in time and meeting up with the foremost scientist of the day. Try to explain to him that in the future, science will harness the power of unseen electromagnetic waves to project picture and sound across the vast expanse of Earth and beyond. Obviously, he will think you are deluded or mad. He cannot fathom such a thing, and yet we live with these realities in the normal course of our daily routines.
This same tension exists when we discuss the spiritual realm that we, Torah believing Jews, know exists and which forms the true reality that underlies the tangible but superficial world we see before our eyes. The instruments we use to transmit and receive spiritual wavelengths are the Mitzvos we perform, the Torah we study and the good deeds we do for our fellow man.
But there are many who deny such a dimension exists at all. The ancient Greeks worshipped the human form and beautiful objects in nature, their attention singularly focused on that which the eye can readily behold and the senses can tangibly grasp. They scoffed at the Jewish notion of an unseen but all seeing God who created everything and holds the world to account. They were appalled at the services performed in the Bais HaMikdash, the holy Temple where people and other objects were permitted or denied entry to the holy precincts based on the wholly intangible status of pure (Tahor) or impure (Tamei) and the choicest of animals were offered upon an altar to an invisible all powerful deity.
The Greeks sought to disprove such “nonsensical” beliefs by actively contaminating all of the carefully guarded flasks of olive oil which were painstakingly prepared for use in kindling the precious golden Menorah. The flames of the Menorah represented the height of spiritual purity, symbolizing the ennobling and purifying light of God’s holy Torah. The Greeks claimed, quite logically, that Tamei oil burns every bit as brightly as Tahor oil and that the Jews’ obsession with holiness was nothing more than a chimera.
Unfortunately, many Jews were persuaded by the arguments of their Greek oppressors. Much like the 18th century scientist for whom claims of undetectable electromagnetic waves were a source of amusement akin to the genre of science fiction, some Jews fell sway to the argument that claims of a world of infinite spiritual power should be catalogued together with Greek mythology.
But, a faithful remnant of true believers remained committed to following Hashem’s Torah and refused to jettison their millennia old faith for new fads. To them, Tamei and Tahor were diametrically opposed, simply because God said it was so. They searched frantically for an untainted, pure flask of olive with which to rededicate the service of the holy Temple. And, Hashem duly rewarded their efforts with an open miracle, demonstrating for the entire world to see that burning faith combined with Tahor oil can light an eternal flame in the heart of a nation that will sustain it through the darkest of times.
Many of us have experienced great destruction from the recent storm that flooded our neighborhoods and homes. But in the wake of the devastation we have been privileged to see an outpouring of loving kindness amongst our brethren as we help each other to rebuild. As we kindle our Chanukah Menorahs, let us rededicate ourselves to its eternal message that the light of Torah and Mitzvos will always illuminate a path for us to usher in a better and brighter future. I wish you and your families a joyous Chanukah that will prove inspiring and uplifting both physically and spiritually.
Special Thanks to: Rabbi Avraham Shalom Farber & Yehuda Leib Meth, for the Translation