by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – November 8, 2013
In one of his talks discussing the holiday of Chanukah, the latter day Torah scholar R. Shimshon Pincus described a progression in the various holidays celebrated by observant Jews round the world.
The first holiday in the Jewish order of holidays, R. Pincus contended, is Pesach (Passover), the time that the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were miraculously saved from cruel clutches of their Egyptian captors. This holiday, celebrated when the summer season sun begins to peak through the clouds, R. Pincus suggested, corresponded to the birth of the Jewish people as a nation.
Afterwards, the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost), celebrated as the summer season sets in, at which time the ancestors of the Jewish nation received G-d’s Torah, prescribing certain ways of action and behavior to the Jewish people, corresponds, according to R. Pincus, to our bar mitzvah. After rescuing our ancestors from their captors and being given time to properly asses their surroundings and their lives, G-d saw it to be appropriate to delineate the obligations that the members of the Jewish nation should carry upon themselves.
Following Shavuot, we come to the holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles) at the end of the bright sunny summer season. This joyous holiday, R. Pincus proposed, was in effect our ancestors’ entering under the marital canopy, joining them in holy union with our Creator and Father in Heaven, accompanied with ceremonial acts, good cheer and happy songs.
Preceding the marital union of Sukkot, R. Pincus continued, were the holidays of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, marked by introspection and contemplation in preparation of entering the marital union with our Master in Heaven. And in conclusion of celebrating this holy marriage with G-d, we dance with G-d’s gift to His bride, the Torah, on the last day of Sukkot, known as Simchat Torah.
However, after some time, after our ancestors saw much light and brightness awarded them at the hands of our Creator, sorrow and darkness began to descend upon our people as a result of our wrongdoing and foreign hatred. This is symbolized by the winter’s setting in, marked by cold and rainy days and limited sun with increased darkness. Nevertheless, during this darker period, we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights. It is during this time of year when a small brave group of Jews known as the Maccabees refused to buckle under Greek persecution and, with faith in and devotion to G-d along with determination, miraculously overcame the cruel Greek dominion, an event that brought hope to generations after. This hope and newfound brightness that poked its way into a sea of darkness is celebrated by lighting the Chanukah lights. And it is this ray of light in the darkness that we hope will eventually shine until we can regale in joy and dance as we do during the following holiday of Purim.
Indeed, throughout all of our lives, we, as the Jewish people, have had the fortune to be the receivers of divinely bequeathed gifts of happiness and joy, but, with that, we have also been given obligations. And, as a result of shirking those obligations, eventually sadness and darkness set in. But all is not lost. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Chanukah tells us that, as bleak as our situation seems, if we turn to G-d with honest faith and devotion, we can overcome all obstacles. It is up to us.