We find many similarities between Chanukah and Hakhel. Chanukah is a festival when the family gets together. Every family has a traditional Chanukah gathering, sometimes a gathering of the extended family, and sometimes it’s just for the immediate family. But families have a tradition of celebrating Chanukah all together.
So, Chanukah is itself a time of Hakhel, of gathering families together, and Hakhel is a time of also gathering the community together, especially with the public lighting of a Chanukah menorah. The community, and even multiple communities, assemble to participate in a celebration surrounding the lighting of a public menorah. And that in is a Hakhel.
Perhaps there is another Hakhel, an integral Hakhel, on Chanukah. Generally, when you want to put together a minyan, you don’t get ten men all at once. First, you get one person, then you get another person, and then you get a third person. And little by little, or as the expression goes, “little by little, yid’l by yid’l,” you get together a minyan.
Similarly, the Chanukah candles are a Hakhel. On the first night, we light one candle, and on the second night, the Hakhel becomes bigger, and now it’s two candles. It’s a visual Hakhel – and the next day, the visual Hakhel grows and it’s three candles. The next day that Hakhel grows to four candles, and by the fifth candle, we have more than half of the Menorah lit together.
By the eighth light, we have a Hakhel of the entire menorah. All eight candles of the Menorah are there, united as one – united in song (“Haneros Halolu”), in principle, in Jewish pride, Jewish continuity and Jewish tradition.
So many things we see in the candles of Chanukah lead us to the concept of achdus, unity, which is the concept of Hakhel.
There’s another aspect to the candles of Chanukah, which are, of course, a source of light. As a smart person said, “While others cursed the darkness, I lit a candle.” On a deeper level, the candles represent the eternal light of the Jewish people.
We are, as the Rebbe told us so many times, the last generation of golus, exile, and the first generation of geulah, redemption. And it is these Chanukah candles that we light all over the world that will usher in the light of Moshiach and the great Hakhel of all “Jewish candles” – all Jewish men, women and children throughout the world in the great geulah that is coming speedily in our very own days.