Channuka can be said to be many things, and I would not degrade this. I have a family member who makes a hilarious comedic impression of Jewish teachers declaring certain Jewish holidays to be all about this! or all about that! It seems you could say it is all about anything and make a decent reasoning, yet this is not really a problem.
This is really the segue for me to talk about a new concept I see in Channuka, so I will be very brief in explaining why I am happy with a Jewish idea being about so many possible things. The parable to clarify this is explained by my teacher Rabbi Efim Svirsky: Three blind scientists are examining an elephant. After careful examination of different portions of the elephant they each give vastly different descriptions of the elephant. According to the first it is broad and rough(the body). For the second, long and rubbery(the truck), and the third described it as sturdy and firm(a leg). So too an idea in Judaism. A table can translate to one word: table, but a piece of wisdom cannot. When we describe the times of Channuka it is not that there were many reasons for it, but rather that it contains that which is beyond words.
I hope this explanation is somewhat sufficient. Anyway….to my intended thesis: Channuka is all about Purity 🙂
To be precise the word is Tahara טהרה in Hebrew. Before I enter into the description of the concept, let us ask how it is seen in the story. The Hellenists impurified the temple, and all the utensils, and oil. The Maccabim rededicated the temple and utensils, and found pure oil, which had not been impurified.
The parallel to desecrating the temple and utensils, but not destroying them is of course that the Hellenists did not attempt to commit genocide against the Jewish People, rather they desired to stamp out the Jewish faith.
A further hint to guide us: We are taught that Pesach is the source of emancipation in the world and that without Pesach we would have no concept of this (see Pesach – not for now). It seems to me that similar to this Chanuka is the source for Tahara, and that were it not for Chanuka we would have no concept of Tahara in the world.
What Is Tahara-Purity?
The Hellenist belief system recognized all the moral, and righteous traits we do. They believed so much in the infinite beauty and depth of the world. They were amazed at man’s capacity, and the wonder of the world G-d created. On all this we are partners in belief with the Hellenists, we get along great, but we also know there is something more.
The Torah praises the Greeks, they have so much right, they are into self improvement, respect for man and the world, etc. They may have stuff wrong, but they learn. They respect learning.
The mistake is that they should have come to us, the Jews; the bearers of the Torah and learnt from us, instead they tried to stamp us out, and figure it out themselves.
Why Did The Helenists Reject Torah?
Because, they rejected Tahara-Purity. They rejected the idea of having a place where the world and the beyond met.
In-short: the Hellenists were on the right track, but they were lacking a guide. Purity is the guide. When we do not know what to do we look to the Torah, we connect ourselves to the source of all. We go to the mikva; the primordial waters, the womb. We nullify ourselves in the process of touching the infinite. When you have this in your life you have a guide. When you live with this idea then you are pure.
The Hellenists were our brothers in bringing the world to a higher place, but did not wish to be connected to the source.
Why is purity so difficult to define? It is meant to represent the touch between the infinite beauty of existence and the unknowable that birthed it. It is therefore slightly immeasurable.
Purity=Touching the Source
Rabbi Dovid Baars