Originally published at Chabad.org.
My friend told me that Hanukkah is a minor holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Passover, and so we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. He said that the only reason it became so big was because of the season.
Unlike Rosh Hashanah, Passover and other “major” holidays, which are prescribed by the Torah as days of rest, we go to work on Hanukkah. Even on Purim, going to work is not recommended. Also, on Jewish holidays we wear special clothes. But the days of Hanukkah are regular workdays in regular clothes.
Yet Hanukkah is a hardly a “minor” holiday. Read what Maimonides writes in his Laws of Hanukkah:
The mitzvah of kindling Hanukkah lamps is a very precious mitzvah. A person should be very careful in its observance, to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of God and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf. Even if a person has no resources for food except what he receives from charity, he should pawn or sell his garments and purchase oil and lamps to kindle them.
Maimonides continues by instructing that if one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Hanukkah lamp, the mitzvah of Hanukkah takes precedence. Doesn’t sound too minor to me.
Especially when you take into account that this is what Hanukkah is all about: to “light up the darkness” (which is why we light it at night, at the door or window). So, even though it’s a regular workday—well, that’s really the whole idea: to light up the regular workday. And that takes a very special light.
At any rate, since when do we look for excuses not to celebrate? On the contrary, in the words of wise King Solomon, “A good heart always celebrates.”
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, senior editor at Chabad.org