“What is Hanuka?” – A New Way of Looking at the Lights

Where does the name Hanuka come from? In fact, it is derived from a passage describing the Navi Zecharya’s vision of the Menora. This passage serves as the Haftara of Shabbat Hanuka, and ends with the phrase Hen Hen La, thus providing the first part of the word Hanuka. (See the end of the First Vision, below.)

The Second Vision of Zecharya belongs to the Haftara of Sucot. God goes out to fight the nations, who have laid siege to Yerushalayim. God places his feet on Har haZaytim. The mountain splits and moves north and south; thus opening a passage from east to west. As part of this huge change to the topography, living water issues from Yerushalayim. And it is this healing and purifying water that bathes the dead and brings them to life.

Zecharya himself is buried at the foot of Har haZaytim. This is a good place to be buried because it is the primary location of Tehiyat haMaytim. But we learn something more from Zecharya – that the essence of Hanuka is Tehiyat haMaytim!

In the first vision, concerning the Menora, Zecharya as usual is on Har haZaytim. He sees a massive Head Stone, which is locking the entire mountain in place.

This Head Stone has seven eyes. Seven, like the Ushpizin – the great men who are alive, and with us, and visit us on Sucot.

Upon the Head Stone there is a Menora of pure gold, whose bowl rests upon the stone. There are seven candles upon this bowl, burning with a never-ending light.

On the stone, on each side of the bowl, there are two olive trees.

But what Zecharya finds puzzling, is that the olive trees do not seem to be the source of the oil for the candles. Then he realizes that the candles are burning with a purely spiritual energy. Zecharya sees that the ‘eyes’ in the stone are apertures, through which flow the spirit of Tehiyat haMaytim – the revival of the dead. And it is precisely this spirit that provides the fuel for the lights.

When we reproduce this vision on Hanuka in the physical world, we generally use oil. However, oil will work quite well: שמן (oil) and נשמה (soul), in fact, are composed of the same letters.

Now, these lights may be tiny, but they burn forever. And the great store of spiritual energy is never exhausted, but building up over time with an irresistible force.

On the appointed day, God will remove this Head Stone, which until now has locked the structure of the physical world in place. Suddenly, everything moves. The mountain splits north and south, and the massive immovable Head Stone which has been מונח (set in place) suddenly becomes
חן חן – a living fluid motion of dual grace.

Stone is now spirit. Where there was once a mountain is now a wide plain of flowing water. And the buried dead, till recently locked underground, now come to life.

Quite naturally, a lot of social networking now ensues, as we invite old and new acquaintances (recently revived) to drink wine and eat fruit beneath the trees in our garden…



Below is my (slightly unorthodox) translation of the text from the book of Zechariah. The phrases and passages that seem key to my interpretation, are highlighted in red.



The First Vision 





כי הנה
האבן אשר נתתי לפני יהושע
על אבן אחת שבעה עינים
הנני מפתח פתחה
נאם יקוק צבאות
ומשתי את עון הארץ ההיא ביום אחד

For behold
This stone which I have put before Yehoshua
– a single stone with seven apertures –
I will develop the opening of this stone
Says the God of Hosts
and I will remove everything that has ever gone wrong in that Land, on one day.


ביום ההוא
נאם יקוק צבאות
תקראו איש לרעהו
אל תחת גפן ואל תחת תאנה

On that day
Says the God of Hosts
You will call, each man to his neighbour,
To come beneath the vine and beneath the fig.


וישב המלאך הדבר בי
ויעירני כאיש אשר יעור משנתו

And the angel that was speaking to me returned
and woke me like a man that is woken from his sleep.


ויאמר אלי
מה אתה ראה
ואמר ראיתי
והנה מנורת זהב כלה
וגלה על ראשה

ושבעה נרתיה עליה שבעה ושבעה מוצקות לנרות אשר על ראשה

And he said to me
What do you see?
And I said, I saw:
And behold a Menora all of gold
And the bowl of the Menora was on the head of the stone
And it’s seven candles were upon it – seven [candles] with Seven [apertures] fueling the candles – upon its head.


ושנים זיתים עליה
אחד מימין הגלה
ואחד על שמאלה

And two olive trees were upon it
One to the right of the bowl
And the other upon its left.


ואען ואמר אל המלאך הדבר בי לאמר
מה אלה אדני

And then I spoke more and said to the angel that was speaking to me:
– What are these, my lord?


ויען המלאך הדבר בי ויאמר אלי
הלוא ידעת מה המה אלה
  ואמר לא אדני

And the angel who was speaking to me answered and said:
But you know what these are!
And I said – No, my lord.


ויען ויאמר אלי לאמר
זה דבר יקוק אל זרבבל לאמר
לא בחיל ולא בכח
כי אם ברוחי
אמר יקוק צבאות

And he answered and he said to me:
This is the word of God to Zerubavel, saying:
Not by might, nor by power
But by my spirit
Says the Lord of Hosts.


מי אתה הר הגדול
לפני זרבבל למישר
והוציא את האבן הראשה
חן חן לה

Who are you, great mountain?
Become a plain before Zerubavel!
And then He took out the Head Stone
…Upward movement…
Grace – Grace – is hers!




The Second Vision 





ויצא יקוק
ונלחם בגוים ההם
כיום הלחמו ביום קרב

Then shall the Lord go out
And fight against those nations
As he fought in the day of battle.


ועמדו רגליו ביום ההוא
על הר הזתים אשר על פני ירושלם מקדם
ונבקע הר הזיתים מחציו מזרחה וימה גיא גדולה מאד
ומש חצי ההר צפונה וחציו נגבה

And his feet will stand on that day
On the Mount of Olives, which is before Yerushalayim to the East
And the Mount of Olives will be split from its middle to east and to west, a very great valley
And half the mountain will be removed towards the north, and the other half to the south.


והיה ביום ההוא
יצאו מים חיים מירושלם
חצים אל הים הקדמוני
וחצים אל הים האחרון
בקיץ ובחרף יהיה

And on that day
Living water will go forth from Yerushalayim
Half to the First Sea
And half to the Last Sea
In summer and winter it shall be.


והיה יקוק למלך על כל הארץ
ביום ההוא יהיה יקוק אחד
ושמו אחד

And God will be King of the whole earth
On that day God will be One
And his name will be One.


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