Winter is unquestionably here. Aside from the cold weather and snow, we have also had to contend with the more insidious danger of ice.
During a couple of cold mornings recently, I walked out of my house into the morning chill. As I tried to climb my driveway to start my car and begin cleaning off the snow and ice from the windows, I found myself sliding down the driveway. It was so frustrating; despite being just a few feet away from my car, every time I tried to take a step forward, I slid down a few more feet. I realized that my worn-out shoes have absolutely no traction on the bottom. They couldn’t grip anything and therefore there was nothing I could do to keep myself from sliding.
It definitely would have been a lot easier to go back into the house and wait a few hours for the sun to come out and melt the ice. (It would be even better if I could have gone back into my house and come out in April.) But that is obviously not an option. The new day was beckoning, and I had places to be and things to do. I needed to figure out a way to deal with the ice immediately. So, I allowed myself to slide down to the open garage. I took out a shovel and then was able to chip my way up the driveway.
As anyone who has lived in this world for some time can attest, life is not smooth sailing. When things become challenging, we have a natural urge to try to run away from our problems, in the naive and foolish hope that, somehow, they’ll just go away. The successful and effective person is one who is willing to face his hardships. He knows he may not be able to solve all his problems in the moment. Still, he seeks to navigate his way through the morass of his challenges until he can figure out how to improve his situation.
The holiday of Chanukah symbolizes this concept. The events surrounding the holiday transpired during a dark and difficult time historically. The reality was that the majority of the Jewish people at that time were attracted by the beauty and allure of Greek culture and they Hellenized, adopting the Greek views and ways of life. Those who remained steadfast and loyal to Torah were a minute pitiful few.
The Maccabees went to war with the knowledge that G-d could do anything, but that the chances were that they would die fighting. In fact, over time, all of the original five Maccabees indeed died at war or were assassinated.
After the miracle of the oil and the Menorah, the Maccabean forces had to continue battling the Syrian-Greek armies, as well as the Jewish Hellenists who still virulently disagreed with the Maccabees’ stubborn loyalty to Torah.
Chanukah is not a holiday that completely transforms the weekdays into a holy time, as does Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos. Rather, it infuses a spirit of holiness into mundane weekdays.
Chanukah symbolizes the ability to find traction and to remain loyal even during difficult times. It’s a celebration of small bursts of light in a time and place of ominousness and darkness. That is why it is such a beloved holiday in exile. It infuses us with chizuk during the cold and dark period of the year.
I definitely need to get better shoes to help me gain traction on the ice. I am also very excited about the upcoming days that will help us all find traction for our souls, no matter how challenging our personal situation may be.
A beautiful and happy Chanukah to all!