What is the real meaning behind the menorah? What is it supposed to represent exactly?
Let's review some events that occurred around the time the Syrian Greeks took over the Holy Temple, desecrated it and sent the Jews a-packing. In 167 B.C.E., King Antiochus ordered the erection of Zeus to be placed in the temple. Judaism was outlawed and the holy Second Temple was desecrated. Antiochus banned circumcision and even went so far as to gather pigs as sacrificial offerings in the Holy Temple.
The Greeks had a hellenistic society steeped in the throws of valuing human beauty, material, physical and corporeal pursuits. The idea of life having a second dimension that could be filled with a transcendent and meaningful experience was negated. This was the reason that circumcision was at the head of Antiochus's disdain.
The real meaning behind circumcision is that we are incomplete beings born in an incomplete and fragmented world. As partners to the universe, it is our job to elevate our bodies to a higher and more virtuous and significant action that transforms our world. When a baby boy is born, the organ that carries the power to create, and the same power to destroy, is the one organ that we as human beings partner in creating the covenant with our Higher Power that promises to protect our world through sacred pursuits instead of selfish, egocentric and self- obsessed objectives. For man has the ability of allowing his testosterone that steers his desires, whims and urges to lust for power or honor greatness that is not the center to his ego.
Antiochus was the epitome of ego. He was a man who stood for a one dimensional being, rather than an enlightened one. Antiochus "etched G-d out" of the equation completely and relied solely on his own physical power to lead the world.
We all know that everything physical eventually dies. It is the spirit of man that can last forever. No one proved this more than the Greeks themselves, who are no longer here to attest their own convictions.
The menorah was lit during a time that was incredibly devastating for the Jewish people. They had lost all civil rights. Their spirit was under attack and the very fabric of what they stood for was threatened by a people who insisted on thrusting the shallow idea that their own physical state took precedent over the power of spirit and the metaphysical. For eight days the flame that leaned toward heaven attached to its wick burned. The Kabbalah teaches that seven represents nature and earth bound by time and space. For the earth was created in seven days, and time is quantified by seven days of the week. Yet the number eight is beyond nature. It is beyond the physical, it is the miraculous number that engages the struggle of lost souls to reveal their essence when the odds are stacked against them. Eight is the number that reveals the human spirit. For we all have one inside of us. We can all choose to create more light through human struggle. We can all choose to rely on inspiration instead of cynicism and acrimony to galvanize the spark that can rekindle our own spirit. When we resurrect our spirit despite our own pain, we emulate the number eight -- the number that personifies wonder and we become wondrous creatures.
The menorah is a brand that stands for faith in the everlasting, for transcendental transformation and the power to reshape our fragmented world. When I light my candle I cannot help but create light for the person sitting next to me, for light cannot be hoarded, nor can it be contained. The menorah light is the everlasting reminder that miracles can happen in the darkest of moments. The menorah is indeed a human reminder that greatness starts with eliminating the I to experience the We. The menorah is not just a promise to the Jew, it is God's promise to all of humanity that we can become Divine creatures if we allow our selves to soar through all experiences without allowing them to define us. The menorah is not just a Jewish brand, it is a human one.
Let us light our candles and see what happens. One candle at a time.