April 19, 2024
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Redemption and Revelation on Chanukah

Chazal hold that both Purim and Chanukah will be the only holidays celebrated in a post messianic world. Both holidays mark seemingly miraculous events that are remarkable in the way they manage to miraculously change the course of events in seemingly natural ways, and so we commemorate and celebrate these victories over deadly enemies who sought to annihilate us. The fact that our Torah gives us divinely sanctioned holidays, yet only our rabbinic holidays will be eternal, indicates they are germane to the process of redemption and revelation.

Redemption: If sinat chinam was the catalyst of our galut and the destruction of our Beit Hamikdash, is there any more radical departure from hatred than Purim; a holiday where we prioritize gifts to the poor and lovingly acknowledge our friends and neighbors? On Purim we are actively engaged in community costume balls, imbibing, dancing, singing, bands of yeshiva bachurim accompanied by music entertain with captivating hoopla and amusement in their quest for donations, ending an awesome day with a sumptuous festive meal. Purim is a one-day celebration that elicits more ebullient joy than all the other holidays combined. The holiday celebrates a corporal salvation from a physical annihilation and therefore is tended to in the most physical of ways to combat the ugly vice that nearly did us in physically, by transforming senseless hatred into purposeful love.

Revelation: So why Chanukah? Admittedly, it is a joyful, fun and illuminating holiday, not like any other, as the favorite Yiddish folk song goes; however, Chanukah’s joy and fun pale against the immense condensed exuberance of Purim. Chanukah combats the destructive void of an existential void created by the misperception of a baseless existence by providing the spiritual enlightenment and courage to dedicate and reassert our family/national mission. Chanukah enlightens us to a means to protect and cultivate our cultural identity as opposed to the assimilation that drives us apart and dilutes our heritage until we cast ourselves out of our concentric circle of sacred life, emerging spiritually lost until we are absorbed into our host nations.

Moshe’s difficulty with the menorah stemmed from knowing only Hashem could create a template for the ultimate longing for holiness and communal unification. The menorah is all inclusive; any Jew can light it, except for one problem: a zar cannot enter the Heichal.

However, on Chanukah, the menorah is not the exclusive realm of the kohanim; rather, it becomes the great equalizer. Hashem removes the menorah from the Beit Hamikdash and brings it into our homes, and Korach’s words are fulfilled: “We are all holy.”

Our folk song does leave us with one quintessential description: illuminating. We may have sat the whole year shrouded in darkness, but now we join our brethren and regain our spiritual composure. We may have lost our way and sat in perpetual darkness for two millennia, but now we fully assert publicly our national goal to dispel the darkness that has clouded our mission to be am mamlechet kohanim. In unison, we make our first small step as priests, light our first candle and extend the power of continuity through the natural order of seven and cross over to the metaphysical border into the Messianic realm of eight.


Yisroel Settenbrino is the artist and developer behind the Blue Moon Hotel in New York City, pairing art with history and culture. He has made a life study of art and spirituality and enjoys writing about theology, philosophy, psychology and history.

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