Hanukkah Symbols

The Secret Inner Light of Hanukkah

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Pure Olive Oil~Crown of Hanukkah Symbols

Just as the dove brought light to the world, so too,
will you bring olive oil and light it before Me.

Midrash Tanchuma, Tetzaveh 5

The dove is a universal symbol of love, but did you know this idea is rooted in Jewish tradition? In Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) 5:2 Hashem lovingly calls the Jewish people: "My love, My yonah, My dove, My perfect one..." Thousands of years ago, the wise King Solomon, who wrote this verse, described our role in relation to our Creator as a dove, a pure, kosher bird.

The dove first appears in the Torah in the story of Noach. Tradition has it that he was always near Noach, a constant presence, perched on his caretaker's shoulder. Noah released the dove mi'ito, "from himself," to search for signs of life when the rains of the flood ended.

Sent away from this intimate place near her caretaker, the beloved dove returned to the ark carrying the branch of an olive in her mouth. Then Noach understood that the land was ready to give life sustaining food again. But there was more.

The olive at first, appears to be only food, but we know its product, oil, produces light. Our sages say that at its essence, the olive's greatest potential is to reveal miracles hidden in nature.

The Origin of the Chanukah Light

Olive oil is the most enlightening of Hanukkah symbols. There is a tradition that Noach squeezed the oil from the very olive brought by the dove, gave the vial to his son Shem who entrusted it to Avraham. From Avraham it was passed it along throughout the generations until King David hid it in the Beis HaMikdash, waiting until the time for which it was destined.

This vial was the nes pach shemen, the miracle vial of oil the Maccabees used to light the Menorah and rededicate the Temple. This is the vial of pure olive oil that transcended the laws of nature and miraculously burned for eight days.

The mission of every Jew is like the olive that appears to be just a fruit, but with effort, brings light to the world. The Jew also appears to be just a person living and working within the boundaries of the natural world. However, with effort we can transcend the natural world and reveal G-dliness.

And we do not have to be a great Torah personality to do this. In our homes and in the workplace, we keep the mitzvos, say brachos and interact with others in a dignified manner. In every mundane situation, as in every monumental challenge, there is opportunity to move beyond our nature. Then, "just as the dove brought light to the world" when she returned to the ark with the olive branch, our G-dly actions bring the light of Hashem to a world very much in need.

The Secret of Hanukkah

Every Jewish soul is like the miraculous nes pach shemen. Just as the tiny vial of oil hidden throughout the generations carried the seal of the Kohen Gadol and certified its purity, there is always a small compartment secreted away in every one of us that remains pure and perfect.

Sealed and waiting in our darkest moments, the times when we feel most defiled and distant, this pristine part of our soul is ready to fuel our pintele yid, no matter how alone we feel.

Centuries after the Chanukah miracle, the fact that we still light the menorah every year and are strengthened by the of deeper understanding our Hanukkah symbols, should reassure us that the final miracle of redemption is on the horizon. It depends on us. As long as we, like the dove, hold fast to our burning desire to return again to our Caretaker's side.

May the King of the Universe to help us see the light hidden in every gift and challenge, and help us to use these opportunities to bring our individual measure of light into the world.


Photographed by Chayim B. Alevsky

Learn more about Hanukkah symbols and traditions that
reveal the nature of this brilliant Jewish holiday:
Hanukkah symbols and delicious Hanukkah Food.


Cooking for The King by Renee Chernin
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