Hanukkah’s lesson about outside vs. inside

I’m not talking about where to light your Hanukkiyah. But in a way, I am.

I heard a dvar Torah the other day about the seeming conflict of the two ways that Hanukkah is described in the sources. One reason, from the Gemara  Shabbat 21 describes the well-known miracle of the little flask of oil that was found after the cleaning out of the Holy Temple from the bad guys’ defilement. And then there is the prayer that we add into daily services, Al HaNisim, that focuses on the miracle of the few and weak winning over the bad tough guys, but that doesn’t mention the miracle of the oil at all.

They’re both called miraculous, but they don’t seem to have anything to do with each other. We can use the typical reason that the early rabbis didn’t want to focus on the  war, but the later ones didn’t want to focus on the Maccabees/Hashmonaim, who were not the best role models, confusing their service in the Holy Temple with leadership. So we can leave it as a conflict of values of the ages. The person saying over the dvar Torah wanted to prove that the miracle of the oil led people to believe in miracles so they could attribute the winning of the war to a miracle.

I’m not so convinced.

Or we can say that the miracle of the Holy Temple was so inside, was so hidden, only seen by a few of the Kohanim of the day, that it wasn’t the main event. The main take-away is the defeat of the foreigners and the taking back the responsibility and the destiny of the Jewish people. That both agree on. And what is the important is the gratitude, knowing it was not by our own power that we were able to accomplish this. It could only happen with Divine help. And that gets reflected back onto the miracle of the oil, that we can repeat ourselves in these days, at these times, in a symbolic way to remember the gift that we were given.

We went to a brit milah this morning and we just returned from a wedding this evening. These are both inside events that are celebrated outside. Here in the Northeast, I don’t mean that they are outside per se, but the public shares the elements that will be henceforth only shown in private. The huppah stands in for the new home of the couple, so we’re getting a glimpse of their private space. It also teaches us the appropriate show of intimacy; the hint, the symbol.

And that’s enough.

So here in America we tend to light our Hanukkiyot by a window, but not outside. In Israel, where things are much more open, it’s outside.

Can you imagine feeling that confident about what belongs shown in public? Outside?


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