1 Our sages in the talmud strangely inquired: Mai Hanukkah מאי חנוכה —which means, What does this celebration mean? And they avoided giving the Maccabees any limelight. True, they purged the Temple of the foe (the Greeks יונים, mention in the song Mi Yemallel and in the prayer Al HaNisim), but the Rabbis emphasize the miracle oil tale, and —in case we failed to get the message, their choice of Hanukkah haftarah is from Zachariah: Not by might and not by power, but by My spirit, says God. It’s about faith. In those days, in this moment.
2 Hillel said, add one candle each night, 1 through 8. Shammai disagreed. He preferred starting with 8 going down to 1. His model was the Sukkot sacrifice, which featured a declining number of bulls offered as the festival progresses. Hillel argued: One ascends in matters of holiness מעלין בקודש, a bit like Excelsior! Onward and Upward. That needs to be our bumper sticker —to challenge ourselves to up our game, especially as we face the darknes.
3 The name of the holiday should be message enough —dedication. The question for ourselves: How will we express our resolve, to what values do we dedicate our-selves? Who are we, and what do we stand (and fight) for?
May we bring joy, light, blessings, and faith into all our journeys