Around the world, Jews greet the holiday of Chanukah by lighting one flame. On each successive night of this eight-day festival we add one additional flame, culminating on the eighth night with a fully lit eight-flame menorah.
Among the miracles commemorated by Chanukah is that God made a tiny quantity of consecrated oil last for eight days until a further supply could be secured. Since only one flame was involved in the original miracle, we could adequately commemorate it by lighting one candle each evening of the eight days. Or if you prefer bright lights, we could light eight candles each night of the festival. After all, my gracious Christian neighbors don’t keep adding to or subtracting from the attractive holiday lighting on their homes as Christmas approaches.
Surely kindling the identical array of light each night would adequately capture recollection of the original miracle by replicating it. However, if you really do want to make each evening distinctively different, it would express more environmental sensitivity were we to first light eight candles and then one fewer on each successive night. This would demonstrate our sad but inexorable progress toward a darker world. Each night’s declining light would publicly proclaim that we are running out of the fossil fuels from which candles are made. (You do know that this is not my real belief, don’t you?)
What ultimate meaning do we derive from ancient Jewish wisdom’s requirement that we light one flame the first night, two the second, until night eight when the menorah’s eight candles cast out an incandescent blaze of light?
Darkness is the tragic default condition for much of humanity. Even our live lives are frighteningly fragile and can all too easily turn dark. One need only dwell on the problems that we all face for life to become overwhelming. Family issues, health and financial crises, even matters of personal faith. If individual challenges are not enough, consider the state of the world. That alone could envelop you in gloom and darkness.
With all that darkness, the pathway towards brightness and happiness is hard to find. Since it’s impossible to completely rid one’s life of problems, how does one dispel darkness?
The best way is by focusing on only one problem at a time. If we chip away at only one challenge at a time and ensure that each passing day diminishes that problem, we see hope. As the figure of speech goes, we see ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ The key is to make each day even just a little brighter than the day before. Herein lies the key to the infusion of hope that the Chanukah experience offers.
As my friend Dave Ramsey (www.daveramsey.com) teaches, if one of the causes of your darkness is debt, select one credit card and chip away at its balance. Make each passing day a bit brighter. This will help you shine light and dispel gloom on the next area you need to confront.
If your marital life, or lack thereof, is bringing darkness, pick one small area to start improving each day. If a health or financial issue looms darkly, again, start today to better one small area.
Trying to tackle everything at once – the equivalent of lighting eight flames each night – can quickly lead to chaos. Starting with a huge chunk and despondently recognizing that you have undertaken too much is demoralizing. Even worse is lighting eight candles, then seven, then six. You’re moving depressingly toward darkness. Instead, find one limited area to which you can consistently add a little more light. Needless to say, seeing that one dark area brighten up a little each day equips us to confront other problem areas with optimism—an expression of light.
Celebrating Chanukah in accordance with ancient Jewish wisdom provides an annual infusion of hope and promise. Watching that menorah become brighter each night assures me that tomorrow can be lighter than today and offers a roadmap to bring that about.
Susan and I try to dispense cheer and guideposts for successful living on our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show. We love the mail we receive telling us how you enjoy and benefit from our work. We gathered eight of your favorite shows onto two DVDs. As part of our Chanukah celebration, get both discs for the price of one. They make great holiday gifts and provide uplifting “downtime” relaxation. (For more Chanuka insights check out Festival of Lights as well as the final day of our Biblical Blueprints sale.)