I know we have that story about the Miracle of the Lights, but it seems to be related to Christmas more than to Judaism. Maybe Hanukkah gifts and lighting up the season are not the only meaning of the holiday.
If we remember the story, the problem with the light came about after the victory of the Maccabees or Israelites over the Greek-Syrian ruler, Antiochus, about 2200 years ago. We all know the story about only one jar of oil and the long journey to fetch more. Yeah, yeah, eight days, yada, yada, yada. We have focused on the miracle-thing and I think we often overlook the message of Hanukkah.
To me, the core of the holiday is the cleaning of the temple. Remember that the invaders had taken an Israelite temple and used it for their own purposes. The inside was probably really gross. After the battle the temple was being restored to its original purpose. This required work, cleaning out the Stuff, and understanding of the original purpose. The task may have been hard and dirty work, but the results were worthwhile. The accomplishment was in restoring the temple to the purpose for which it was built.
Now think of the temple as a symbol. Perhaps it represents my life. The world has tried to use me for its own (perhaps good, but none-the-less extrinsic) purposes. But now I can rededicate myself to my own original purpose. Oh, it may take hard work. It may mean cleaning out a lot of Stuff. It may be really gross. It may mean figuring out what my purpose actually is. The task may require hard and dirty work, but the results can be worthwhile.
Now, near the Winter Solstice, it is good to light candles. All the nice meanings of bringing light to the world can be beautiful. But perhaps we are concentrating on lighting the world because we don't know how to light up our own lives.
This reminds me of a story. Actually it is one of my favorite old Russian stories.
Well, the story is predictable, but then again, it does apply to all of us. Certainly I have spent years pounding on doors in order to get other doors to open. And not very successfully, either.A man is walking home late at night and comes upon his friend, Sasha, groveling around on the ground under a lamppost. He says "Sasha, what are you doing groveling around on the ground?"
Sasha replies: "I am looking for my keys which I dropped over there."
"If you dropped your keys over there, then why are you searching for them over here?"
Sasha replies: "There's no light over there."
Just because we may not have the answers is not sufficient reason not to work on the issues. And what issue is more important than figuring out why we are here. What is more important than trying to do/learn/teach/love/be what we are here to do/learn/teach/love/be.
Then again, I like the Latkes!
Hanukkah, Hanukah, Chanukah, Chanukkah