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Thursday, Kislev 19, 5778 / December 7, 2017


Chanukah, which begins next Tuesday night, celebrates two miracles. 1) The miracle of the oil in the Holy Temple, when a small amount of oil barely enough to last one night, lasted for eight nights.

2) The miracle in which the small army of the Macabees were victorious over the great armies of their Syrian-Greek-Hellenistic enemies. As we recite in the Al Hanisim prayer of Chanukah, "Strong fell in the hands of the weak; many into the hands of the few."


These two miracles are celebrated by lighting the Chanukah lights for eight days.


Q. We can understand how the Chanukah lights celebrate the miracle of the Menorah, but how does lighting the Menorah celebrate the miracle of the small Jewish army winning the war against their mighty enemies? 


A.  The decrees against the Jewish people at the time of Chanukah were of spiritual nature. Jews were prohibited to study Torah and observe the mitzvot which connect us to G-d.  Thus, the war which the Macabees fought against their enemies was to protect and save the Jewish soul.


The Jewish soul is compared to a candle, as is written, "The candle of G-d is the soul of man."  Torah and mitzvot are also compared to a candle and light. 


Thus, the sages established to celebrate both miracles of Chanukah with the lighting of candles. It not only celebrates the miracle of the oil in the Temple, it also commemorates the victory of the war against the Jewish soul (candle) and the victory of Torah and mitzvot.


The Chanukah candles remind us to believe in the power of miracles. Miracles happen all the time, it is only a matter of recognizing them. Some miracles are obvious, while most are hidden, as they are concealed in what we call "nature." 


The spiritual illumination of the Chanukah candles should enlighten us to see, to recognize and be thankful for G-d's constant miracles which accompany us with every breath, every minute of the day.


Today is the 19th of Kislev. It is a very important day in the Chassidic calendar, especially for Chabad-Lubavitch. In the year 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen, founder and first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, was liberated from prison.  He was imprisoned by the Czarist government for spreading the teachings of the Kaballah and Chassidus.  Rabbi Schneur Zalmen's life was in grave danger.  After 53 days of imprisonment, he was released on the 19th of Kislev. 


Like the Chanukah candles, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen's teachings have illuminated Jewish souls through the darkness of this exile, for over 200 years. May his memory be a blessing to all.