For a long time, I had difficulty in understanding this kabbalistic metaphor until one day it all came together. As a way of explaining this difficult concept, let me ask you to imagine for a moment that you have walked into a magic store. And there, they are selling special flashlights equipped with magic lights of different kinds. For example, you can buy the light of science, and when you point that flashlight at your hand, you see not a hand, but cells and blood vessels and tendons and ligaments. Or you can buy the light of art, and you point that flashlight at your hand, you see your hand as if it were a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci-you see form, and color, and texture. And you're having a lot of fun trying out the different flashlights with the different lights. And then you see one labeled "the light of Hanukkah." What will you see in that light?
It is interesting that according to Jewish law, when we light the Hanukkah menorah we are prohibited from using its light-from reading by it, or doing some other task by it. Instead, we are commanded to simply look at the light. All year long we are looking at what we see in the light, but on Hanukkah we are to focus on seeing the light itself. We are to fill our eyes with the light of Hanukkah so that when Hanukkah is over, we will continue to see our lives in this special light. What is special about the light of Hanukkah?
When King Solomon wrote in his famous work, Ecclesiastes, "everything is vanity . nothing is new under the sun" he was talking about what it is like to see the world in the light of the sun, in the light of nature.
But the Zohar, the chief work of Kabbalah, teaches us everything is new when seen in the light beyond the sun.
The light of Hanukkah is the light beyond the sun, it's the light beyond nature, it's the light of miracles. And what does the world look like in the light of miracles? The world looks like a miracle. In the light of nature nothing is new but in the light of miracles everything is new and novel.
When I point the light of science at my hand I see cells, I see veins. When I point the light of art at my hand I see form, I see shape, and I see color. But when I point the light of Hanukkah, I see a miracle. We fill our eyes with the light of Hanukkah for eight days, so that when the holiday is over, we see that everything is a miracle, we see that even nature is actually a miracle.
Albert Einstein once said: "There are two ways of looking at the world-either you see nothing as a miracle or you see everything as a miracle."
The Jews see everything as a miracle. The Greeks saw nothing as a miracle. To the Greeks, a miracle was an absurdity. To them only what is reasonable, logical, and rational can be real. Miracles are illogical and therefore not possible.
How Jews broke all the historical rules
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This is why Judaism irritated the Greeks so much that they decided to wipe it out. Judaism said G-d created the world, cares about man, and invites man to be His partner in making history and perfecting the world. The Greeks assumed that the world was perfect already. Everything was as it should be. The world was eternal, history was inevitable, G-d was impersonal. No expectations of miracles, no hope. Life is a Greek tragedy.