Like all Torah holidays, Chanukah highlights reality that continues every day.
Chanukah is from the word Chinuch in the Holy Language, which means ‘dedicating into the service of G-d Al-mighty.’
When the 13 men, the Maccabees, with complete self-sacrifice, miraculously defeated the massive Greek armies, they re-dedicated the Holy Temple into the service of G-d Al-mighty.
But even more than that, they dedicated their fellow human beings into the service of G-d Al-mighty by teaching them the Torah vision, lessons and instructions that apply to every human being in all times and places. They understood that the Holy Temple was a beacon to all men everywhere that there is a G-d Al-mighty, and nothing but G-d Al-mighty, Who is lovingly recreating each man, woman and child from nothing at every instant. And they used that platform to increase the strength of that beacon.
The darkness that had confronted the Maccabees was seemingly insurmountable. On one hand they faced the seductive logic of the Greeks, the worlds leading force, which sought to extinguish the irrational commitment to a G-d above human knowing and experience and replace it with the cult of human intellect, human logic, observation and measurement and the glorification of the human body, its prowess and beauty.
Simultaneously they faced their Jewish brethren who had adopted the Greek worldview and had become its biggest champions. Those brethren had forgotten their mission as the Light Unto the Nations and instead became enthusiasts for the debasement of the G-d given gifts of brain, heart and body into mere tools of the self-infatuation with intellectual prowess and bodily pursuits.
Yet, prevail they did. Miraculously. The Maccabees abandoned the human intellect and the calculations of self-preservation and living for another day. They connected with their inner deepest G-dly spark which is an expression of G-d Al-mighty Himself. And with that inward plunge to where there is no calculations, they became an expression of the G-dly force that is within each one of us. They surpassed the limits of the very physical body the Greeks so idolized and their bodies became chariots for G-dliness to accomplish what no human body could accomplish.
They pushed back the Greek overlords and re-awaked the spark of Judaism in their fellow Jews.
And then was provoked a new miracle that was beyond any aspect of their effort.
The sole cruse of oil with the seal of the High Priest, a day’s worth of oil for the Menorah, burned miraculously for eight days. Even when they could have sufficed with the plentiful oil that did not have an intact seal, instead they irrationally demanded the highest standard, a standard that could not be humanly delivered until eight days later after crushing olives and producing and transporting new oil certified by the High Priest.
In their stepping into that unknown that made no sense, G-d Al-mighty revealed a miracle that the one day supply burned for eight days until the new oil arrived. That miracle was a revelation of the miracles that are our existence and the existence of Creation at every instant.
And, the miracle was for the benefit of every human being.
There are two Torah opinions on the most glorious way to celebrate the Chanukah miracle of the oil - one says to add to our menorah one new candle each day, starting with one and ending with eight, and one says to start with eight and light one fewer each day and end on the last day with just one candle. While the prevailing opinion, that of Beis Hillel, the Torah Assembly of the Torah Sage Hillel, is to start with one and end with eight, since we increase in holiness and do not decrease, the other opinion to go from eight to one gives us essential and eternal insight into the meaning of Chanukah and the Miracle of the Oil.
Beis Shammai, the Torah Assembly of the Torah Sage Shammai, says that we should really go from eight to one because the miracle of the oil and the lighting of the menorah that we do for the eight days of Chanukah corresponds to the bull offerings brought on behalf of the Nations of the World in the Holy Temple on the Holiday of Succos (Feast of the Tabernacles). Those bulls were brought in decreasing numbers, starting with 13 on the first day, and ending with one on the eight day, the Holiday of Shmini Atzeres.
Those seventy bulls were brought as sacrifices in the Holy Temple to G-d Al-mighty for the benefit of the non-Jews, of the Nations of the World. The Nations of the World number seventy in their spiritual sources and in their general categories. At first there are thirteen offerings on their behalf, with fewer each day of Succos, culminating in one bull offering representing that all the Nations of the World and all the human beings of the world have moved into harmonious service of G-d Al-mighty in which their very existence reveals the Oneness of G-d Al-mighty.
While initially they seem to be many, with many customs and temperaments, they are ultimately all dedicated into the service of the One G-d Al-mighty, as the Prophet Zephaniah (3:9) proclaims כִּי־אָז אֶהְפֹּךְ אֶל־עַמִּים שָׂפָה בְרוּרָה לִקְרֹא כֻלָּם בְּשֵׁם ה׳ לְעָבְדוֹ שְׁכֶם אֶחָד For then, I will switch over the nations to a clear and flowing language with which all will call in the name of the L-rd to serve Him with one unified effort.(1)
On Succos this positive transformation of the world where G-dliness is openly revealed and honored is carried out in potential through the service of the bull offerings in the Holy Temple.
On Chanukah, this transformation actually happened. The Maccabees succeeded in precipitating the dedication of mankind into the service of G-d Al-mighty.
Therefore, declares Beis Shammai, the lighting of the menorah must reflect this. Start with eight and end with one, because on the eight day of Chanukah it is revealed that all people in G-d Al-mighty’s world are dedicated into the service of Him. That oneness of purpose, as prophesied by Zephaniah, is represented by one candle.
And, there is no contradiction between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel - they are both true and highlighting a different aspect of the miracle of Chanukah - as the nations are increasingly dedicated into the service of G-d Al-mighty, moving from the multitude of eight to the singular purpose and dedication of one, the G-dly Holiness is is increasingly revealed as shown by increasing from one to eight bright candles.
This ability to reveal G-dliness in even the most distant human being, the one who is most antagonistic to G-d Al-mighty, even openly rebelling against G-d Al-mighty, can only be accomplished through the teaching of Torah relevant to that human being to him, particularly the inner teachings of the Torah, namely Chassidus.
Chassidus reveals that there is nothing but G-d Al-mighty, even in the most mundane, and makes that comprehensible in our limited human intellect. It is precisely this teaching that must reach the man who imagines himself most distant from G-d Al-mighty, a man seemingly impervious to the Knowledge of G-d Almighty, who openly rants against G-d Al-mighty, the Torah and the Jewish People. It is indeed oil, the oil of the menorah, that penetrates and permeates everything and the oil of the Torah, Chassidus, will permeate even this man.
It is precisely because his essential essence as a revelation of G-dliness and G-dly Wisdom will be revealed that Zephaniah’s prophecy will be fulfilled, that all the nations will be switched over, just as they are in their existence and in their places to serve G-d Al-mighty with one unified effort.
In other words, it will no longer be that the output of the wellsprings of Torah will travel to every far-flung corner, but the wellsprings themselves will be in every ‘outside’ distant person and place and it will be revealed that the true essence of every person in every place is as a wellspring of Divine Wisdom.
This understanding sharpens the warning to all who seek to advance G-d Al-mighty’s vision in the world to reject the attempts to divide the world into the ‘us’ and ‘them’ on any issue. By defining the ‘them’ and writing off the ‘them’ as beyond hope and redemption, it is actually G-d Al-mighty who is being denied.
On the contrary, Torah teaches that every human being is within reach of Redemption and the faster we see that, the faster will be bring that Redemption to the forefront for every man, woman and child. It will become perceptible that the existence of every man, woman and child is G-dliness.
The Maccabees’, Mattisyahu and his sons’, gift to humanity for eternity was that, even though weak and few, they put their own interests aside, their own well-being aside, and fought against the strong and many to bring this truth into revealed reality. They perceived with simple obviousness that even the natural order is G-dliness, that the true source and existence of everything is G-d Al-mighty, and therefore they were able to bring that G-dliness into revelation, perceivable by all, so that even those who were the very farthest for this awareness, would perceive G-dliness in themselves and all that is.(2)
Through spreading this message to the furthest reaches, all the rebellion against G-d Al-mighty is nullified and those who until this point have rebelled and fought G-d Al-mighty and His Vision and Message, will themselves become consumed into the service of G-d Al-mighty with their souls at the forefront of their existence. And this will lead to the dissolution of all impurity in the world and the movement of all men into the harmonious and singular unified effort in the vibrant and joyous service of G-d Al-mighty.(3)
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(1) The Metzudot Dovid explains that they will speak Loshon HaKodesh (the Holy Tongue) and this common language will lead them to unite in their belief and all together call in the name of G-d and serve Him together. As Rabbi Shimon Chyrek, Shlita, has articulated, Lashon HaKodesh is unique in that the definition of the words is encoded in the pictures of the letters, and when you can read the code everyone can agree on the definition which leads to agreement in other areas. Here is an example: שלום Shalom - means peace however it may mean very different things to different people. When you learn how to read the definition encoded in the letters you get this definition; “Coming together to learn and connect minds” ש - Coming together ל - To learn ו - And connect ם - minds Rabbi Chyrek is spearheading the teaching the Holy Tongue to every person ready and willing to learn in under nine hours of individual or small groups teaching, available to you as Aleph Beis Success here, here for small groups and here for individuals and families.
(2) While tragically their victory was short-lived, and in a few generations, chaos deepened and the Holy Temple was eventually destroyed for the second time, the Maccabees’ gift to humanity is eternal — they blazed a path and revealed for all generations what G-d Al-mighty intends each of us to accomplish when we put aside our desire to belong with the mundane and our desire to live under the limits of the human intellect and human body — we can, and do, reveal Unlimited G-dliness into this world.
(3) To delve more into the Torah sources upon which I rely, please see, regarding the meaning of Chanukah, Baal Shem Tov’s Insights on Tehillim, as related to me by Rabbi Schneur Zalman Gafne, Shlita; regarding the number of candles to light and why, Talmud Tractate Shabbos, 21b, and Rashi on the words פרי החג; regarding the bull offerings of Succos and their significance in bringing the world into the service of G-d Al-mighty, Numbers 29:12-31 and the Chassidic Discourse of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ולקחתם לכם published in the 4th Volume of the Collected Ma’amarim; regarding the effect of Chanukah and of Torah Teachings of Chassidus in bringing the entire world to the service of G-d Almighty in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zephaniah, the Chassidic Discourse of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Kuntres Chanukah, 5752, published in the 6th Volume the Collected Ma’amarim, particularly from the 10th paragraph to the end. The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings here comport with his statement that his father-in-law’s intention in having him, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, translate Chassidus into non-Jewish languages was so that the Torah Teachings of Chassidus should reach and permeate the non-Jews and the Nations of the World.