Many people think that in lighting gigantic Chanukah menorahs in places like Manhattan, Paris, Melbourne, and Berlin, we are “a light to the nations.” However pretty and moving this may be, the light of these solitary and scattered menorahs gets swallowed up by the surrounding darkness of foreign gentile lands. It’s a little like lighting a match in a dark alley. For a few seconds, there’s a flickering of light, and then it vanishes, engulfed by the blackness of the alley. Even if matches were lit in alleyways all over the world, the light would shine for an instant then disappear in the dark.
The only way of sustaining the light is by lighting all of the matches into one great bonfire, and this can only be accomplished by bringing the matches together and kindling them in one place – the Land of Israel.
When all of the scattered exiled Jews are gathered in the Land of Israel, a great Divine light goes out to the world like a towering beacon, illuminating the darkness of the nations. This is the meaning of the prophecy, “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim.” The light goes out from Yerushalayim, and not from Times Square or Beverly Hills.
We become a “light to the nations” precisely when we are living together in Eretz Yisrael, and not when we are scattered all over the world, minorities in foreign lands, stripped of our Israelite nationhood and our pride, needing the permission of the gentiles to light our Chanukah candles in public.
During the long exile, the lighting of the Chanukah menorah had meaning in reminding the Jews in faraway gentile places, that we were still connected to an eternal light, to a national Jewish valor, and a Land of great miracles – but now, with the re-establishment of Medinat Yisrael, and the ingathering of Jews from all over the world, we no longer need the menorahs in Times Square and Sunset Boulevard. The time has come for each and every Jew to take his little light and join in with the great light that is shining forth from Israel.
For example, even in this early stage of our Redemption, when millions of our outcasts are still shrouded in the darkness of alien lands, even though we still have a way to go before we reach our full Torah power in Israel, still, even in our temporary secular state, all of the world’s attention is focused on what the Jews are doing in Israel. Pick up any leading newspaper from the capitals of the world and chances are you will find a front-page story about Israel. When a settler lights a small menorah on a hilltop in Judea, the whole world goes crazy. The United Nations rushes to condemn it. The White House issues an immediate warning. And the Europeans protest at the top of their lungs, like a Sunday church choir in unison.
No one cares about the giant menorah in Berlin or Boston. But a tiny menorah lit by a Jewish settler in Beit-El, Elon Moreh, Yitzhar, Migron, or some deserted and unnamed hilltop, causes an international raucous. Why? Not because the settler is infringing on Palestinian rights. No one really cares about the Arabs. And in most cases, there aren’t any Arabs living close by. The uproar comes because, in their unconscious psyches, the rest of the world senses that with each Jew who returns to the Land of Israel and sets up his home on a Biblical mountainside, the one and only God of Israel is returning with him, to establish His rule in the world, the coming Kingdom of God, and the nations cry out, blinded by the light of this tiny menorah – tiny in size, but world-shaking in its spiritual import and influence.
Even in our present interim stage of Redemption, when our incredible Torah power is still hidden, and when prophecy has not yet reappeared, the sons of Esav and Yishmael sense the great light and they tremble, knowing deep in their hearts that their religions and doctrines are false, that God has not abandoned the Jews as they claim, and that the Biblical prophecies regarding the day when Israel will be lifted up above all other nations will surely come to pass. So they try everything in their power to stop it, so they can continue on with their falsehood and whoring.
That’s why the light of even one small menorah on a hilltop in Judea and Samaria, in Beit Horon or Michmash, where the Chanukah battles were waged, shines more brightly than all of the gigantic menorahs in the foreign gentile lands, “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim.”
About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
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