The Miracle of Light that we celebrate on Hanukkah reflects a crucial rabbinic replacement for the celebration of a short-lived military victory led by the Maccabees in the middle of the second century B.C.E. Because the descendants of the leaders of that revolt had become the Rome-enmeshed Temple priest-kings of the first century C.E., the evolving rabbinic leadership attempted to downplay the holiday as a whole.
But Hanukkah engaged the imagination of people reluctant to abandon it, so the rabbis transformed it from a military miracle to a miracle of Spirit.
The miracle of Spirit, appearing for the first time in the Talmud well after the events themselves took place, states that when the Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated following the successful revolt, only enough sanctified oil for one night was found. It was to take eight days for new oil to be delivered (no Amazon Prime then!), yet that single cruse of oil miraculously continued to burn for all eight nights.
Light illuminates worlds. It was the very first creation identified in Genesis: "Let Light be!" Like the original Light that awakened even before there was a sun, a moon or stars, the Hanukkah Light symbolizes the Light of awareness. The Light of our awareness illuminates all that we perceive to be real. The Hanukkah candles are meant to illuminate that which we would wish to celebrate as real in our world.
Our current celebration, lighting one candle on the first night, then adding an additional candle on each following night until eight candles are aflame on the final night, gives us the opportunity to attach a particular intention to each of the eight Hanukkah lights. As each is kindled, or after all are lit, pause to hold each intention in the Light of awareness. In other words, in the mind's eye, visualize the fulfillment of each intentional illumination.
We are instructed not to make use of the Hanukkah lights to illuminate the outer world -- we are permitted, for example, to read by the light of the Shabbat candles, but not the Hanukkah candles -- but to use the Hanukkah light to illuminate within consciousness our highest personal, communal and global intentions.
Our visualizations are individual, as are our choices of intentions for the flames of Chanukkah. Here are suggestions you might find useful.
Candle One Focus: Peace -- The peace in my heart illuminates peace in my world.
Candle Two Focus: Compassion -- My acts of kindness illuminate kindness in my world.
Candle Three Focus: Love -- I open my heart to embrace myself and others with love.
Candle Four Focus: Healing -- In this light I visualize healing for all who are in need.
Candle Five Focus: Life-Enhancing Environment -- I support environmental healing through my actions.
Candle Six Focus: Security -- I envision a world of safety and mutual support.
Candle Seven Focus: Supportive Relationships -- I act to make things better for my friends and those I love.
Candle Eight Focus: Purpose and Meaning -- I celebrate deep joy and fulfillment in my life.
The Hanukkah Light is seen as a miracle, and a miracle extends through time and space. Make use of your Hanukkah Light this year. Help us all illuminate a kinder, more loving and more caring world.