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Happy Chanukah!

Chanukah Lessons

The month that contains the holiday of Chanukah teaches us that sometimes a little can do a lot. 

This idea sneaks its head into many areas of Jewish thought. One famous statement from the sages is, "Open for me an opening of repentance the size of an end of a needle, and I will open for you openings big enough for cattle and wagons to enter." When someone sincerely desires to strengthen his or her connection to God, He responds by flooding him or her with opportunities to connect to Him.

Often we think to ourselves, "If only I had more power, brains, talent, money, influence, etc., then I could really accomplish what I want." When dealing a spiritual endeavor you can't think purely in practical terms. The added help from God is so tremendous that it takes away all natural limitations.

The Jews themselves are also the symbol of what a small number can do. 

The greatest example of this is Chanukah. We were weaker and fewer yet we prevailed against the odds. These were no miraculous plagues or splitting of seas, just a large amount of Divine assistance. To look at the scene of our fight against the Greeks from a practical standpoint, it would have looked like pure suicide. Who would have thought we really could have won? God helped make a lot out of a little. That's why the remembrance of Chanukah is the flask of oil that should have only lasted one day but lasted eight instead. Because of that flask we light the eight lights of the Chanukah menorah.

Another example of "a little doing a lot" helped an ignorant shepherd become one of the greatest sages of the Talmudic period. Akiva, the shepherd, saw water dripping on a stone. He noticed a hole had worn through the stone where the drops were hitting. He said to himself, "If water can do this to a rock, imagine what the Torah can do to my heart." So he went off to study for many years, carrying with him the image of how much a little bit can add up to.

The Jews themselves are also the symbol of what a small number can do. They have influenced all of history, all of mankind. The Jewish people are a nation with a destiny and a purpose. Their heritage is deep and powerful. They lie like a sleeping giant. If only a few rays of wisdom could shine down on them to awaken them from their slumber, then we would see how much a little could do.

For more essays see

Rabbi Max Weiman

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