The observance of nearly all the holidays, including Shabbat, is centered around festive meals. The only exception is Chanukah, where by rabbinical decree, the lighting of the candles is not only the primary celebration, it is the only celebration unique to the holiday. This serves to focus our attention on the miracle of the oil staying lit for 8 days, and not on the military victory over the Greeks. The reason for this is that the Greeks did not seek to kill us, but to make us forget our Judaism (see the paragraph "al hanisim" ["on the miracles"] that is added in the Amida and in Grace After Meals) and accept their philosophies and approach to life.

What is the difference between the Jewish way and the Greek/western civilization one? Man-made philosophies accept only those ideas that make sense to human intelligence. Anything that can not be understood by the intellect is out. Therefore, the Greeks accepted, for instance, the existence of G‑d, His unity, His first-ness and His eternalness, but they denied G‑d's "micro-management" and the Torah commandments, asking what does the Creator care if we eat meat with milk or not? thought can contain the Almighty at all...

A Jew, on the other hand, believes that G‑d is higher than any level of wisdom and knowledge, that no thought can contain the Almighty at all, even the loftiest. Even more, one challenge of our G‑d-given ability to think is to understand that we and our intellect are limited, and to believe and have faith in the basic foundations of the Torah. The miracle of Chanukah is an expression of G‑dly wisdom overpowering human intellect.

This is the message of the Chanukah candles. Just as the number of candles increase night by night - more light dispelling the darkness, goodness excelling over evil - so also we are empowered to use our intellect at its maximum potential to be a candle dispelling darkness. Just as we light the candles to shine outwards, to be seen by others, so also each of us in our lives should also be like candles to shine outwards, examples of positive action to others.

Shabbat Shalom & Happy Chanuka! Shaul

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