Bring Creation To The Here and Now
Known in some parts of the world as sardines and in others as 44 homes, the game hide-and-seek is an almost universally beloved form of entertainment. I have to admit that even when I play it with my nieces and nephews, I still get an embarrassingly high level of enjoyment from the game. There is something about both the act of hiding and the act of finding someone as the seeker that is eternally entertaining.
Within Judaism itself, hiding and seeking are familiar terms. They are normally associated with Purim. Interestingly though, Chanukah also has an essence of hide-and-seek embedded within it.
To understand that, we have to go back to creation. For when God created the world, at least according to the Chassidic masters, the light that was created was so powerful that it stretched and covered the whole earth. After 36 hours of its shining, God realized that in order for humans to exist, some of that light needed to be hidden. They posited that it was hidden in the Torah so that each time we learn, we unearth a little bit of that light. On this point, in his teaching on Chanukah (1:6), the Chasidic master the B’nei Yissaschar says the following:
“The miracle of the light of the Menorah during this month is derived from the hidden light that was concealed within the Torah...For this reason they instituted a total of thirty-six candles, to parallel the thirty-six times that “light” “candle” and “luminaries” are mentioned in the Torah, which hints to the hidden light that shined for the First Human for thirty-six hours but was then hidden away and concealed within the Torah.”
So you see Chanukah is, in its essence, like a cosmic game of hide-and-seek. According to the B’nei Yissaschar, we light 36 candles on Chanukah. Those candles match the fact that the words associated with light(or, ner, and meorot) appear 36 times in the Torah that in turn match the 36 hours that the original light was shining.
It’s a little head-spinning but powerful nonetheless. When we mark chanukah by lighting our chanukiot, we are connecting our present with our past, revealing that original light from creation back into the world.
Because of its harried nature, sometimes it feels as if we are living out one big game of hide and seek, one in which there seems to be more concealed than revealed. There is so much holiness we miss in the world because of its hiddenness. It’s not solely our fault, for the rules of the game seem to require us to work at a blurring pace.
One of the beautiful aspects of Chanukah is that it forces us to slow down and actually seek out that hidden light. When we do this, we are not just seeing our reflection but perhaps a window into time immemorial. This Chanukah, which begins on Sunday night, as we all are feeling the desire to want to speed up time, try to also take a moment to pause and meditate on your own lights for certainly there is deep holiness in that as well.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach
Also, check out my sister’s powerful post below. Subscribe there for her great musings!