This Is About HANUKKAH

The Bible tells us several times that God wants to have a place “to make His name dwell therein.”

[NOTE:  A reference for a Temple where offerings are made.]

And it’s interesting that it does not say, ‘I will dwell there,’ but rather that, ‘my Name will dwell there.’

It is true that everything is God, that everything is in God, and that everything, i.e., the whole cosmos is not separate from God.  And yet, in all of creation, a Temple is a special case because, for those who enter therein, there is a concentrated, stronger focus of the quality of divinity.

[NOTE:  The primary setting of the Hanukkah story is the holy Temple.  Therefore, Reb Zalman begins by providing us with a sense of how a Temple functions to better equip us to hear what he later wants to tell us about Hanukkah.]

Although God is in everything there is and although everything, each thing that is, broadcasts its own quality, that which we call a Temple is a special case.  It was a broadcasting tower from which a signal went out to the world:

The carrier wave was a field of blessing.  The message stream was the way in which God would like to be able to see the world, i.e., a world in harmony, receptive of that field of blessing. In the broadcast, there was a certain kind of beacon of giving meaning to life and a sense of justice and compassion for the world.

And in each human being there is a receiver for that broadcast, (God’s divine compassion broadcasts on human wavelengths). So the beacon helps a person who is open to God, a person who wants to be open to receive it in this way and to recalibrate her/his moral and ethical life.

Although the First and the Second Temples were destroyed, the teaching says that the Third Temple is already present on a higher and more subtle vibratory scale.

The broadcast comes even now from that Temple and is received by some people but, alas, not by others. The beacon to us human beings brings with it an invitation for us to contribute to the broadcast itself.  If we invest in it, we will help boost the signal strength.

Our investment may take the form of participation in public worshipprivate prayermeditation and these in turn will lead to acts of justice and compassion

We beam these back to the source of the broadcast which we call the name of God.

[NOTE (RZ):  Although an organismic model is something I often prefer to use to describe this process, I am using the technical model of a broadcast because it illustrates certain aspects that will help me make the point I want to make here.]

There are two modes of looking at reality in Jewish mysticism: A) Yichuda Ila’ah and B) Yichuda Tata’ah.

[NOTE: A Temple is a place where God’s Name will dwell and God’s Name is identifed with Yichuda Tata’ah. (Cf., Sefer Tanya, Shaar HaYichud V’HaEmunah, chapter 1, ff.)]

  • A) Yichuda ila’ah / the higher union is when we unify everything in God such that the infinite is the only reality there is.  It points to the sentence, Shma Yisrael …  Echad and its intention.
  • B) Yichuda tata’ah / the lower union, on the other hand, points to the sentence that follows Shma Yisrael: Baruch Shem-Kevod-Malchuto le’olam va’ed / may the name of the glory of his kingdom, (the reflection of majestic effulgence), reach us here in our world.

Yichuda tata’ah sees the universe as God embodied in all the details of life from galaxies to humans and from humans to energy particles as one organismic, living, conscious whole.

There is a further teaching from the cosmic process of Yom Kippur which touches [us]:  Each Yom Kippur a new Shem, a God name is emanated downward to energize the world for the coming year. Embedded in it is the direction that divine Providence wants each part of the cosmos to take. The name that came down the prior year is no longer serviceable for the present year. The Kabbalah describes it as if the energy matrix of the last year has been corrupted (by human beings trespassing on the divine intention).

[NOTE (RZ): Imagine:  The house has a hot-air furnace where every room has filters through which the heated air passes – and it gets clogged and needs to be replaced.]

The great broadcast of divine indwelling beams to the human heart.  The heart is His inner sanctuary.  It is a hologram of the cosmic Temple.  It is a receiver. And the extent to which our hearts can receive the broadcast will depend on our attunement to receive it.

It is my belief that every spiritual discipline is set to attune us to be able to receive this broadcast with greater fidelity. In our liturgy we ask: “Cleanse our hearts so that we might serve You in truth”.

[NOTE:  V’taher libenu l’avdecha b’emmet from the Amidah on Shabbos and Yom Tov.]

Emmet / Truth has the sense of being attuned to what it is and how it is in reality.

Prior to the building of the Temple in Jerusalem we had a traveling Tabernacle and that was built after the Exodus from Egypt.  The Bible tells us how it had to be built to very precise specifications. At the end of the book of Exodus there is a description of how the Shechinah / Divine Presence made Her entrance to reside there when the Tabernacle was completed.

Later when the Bible tells us about Balaam the prophet who had been sent to curse our people and yet, he could not help but say “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling place, O Israel,” He saw the tribes encamped about the Tabernacle in the center and all the tribes in harmony with that broadcast.

What a remarkable vision that is, to be able to see all the nations on earth receiving that broadcast and living in harmony. It is such a vision that likes to appear to us in our vision of the messianic era.

The teaching we received about how the Tabernacle in the desert had to be prepared to receive the indwelling includes also the final act of anointing the surfaces of the Tabernacle with sacred oil. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Apter Rebbe, in his great work Ohev Yisrael points out that the Tabernacle came to life as a result of that anointing. In addition the lighting of the sacred candelabrum brought awareness to the sanctuary. You have here the image of something organic, alive and aware being the center from which the sacred broadcast issued.

When The Broadcast Is Denatured

It is quite easy to understand from our own lives and existence to what extent we have been flooded with information and impressions from all kinds of sources. It requires a great deal of stilling the mind in order to tune into the divine broadcast. However, the media have usurped the bandwidth of our consciousness so that only with great difficulty can we tune in to the broadcast that seeks us to live in harmony.

And this is the preface to the story of Hanukkah:  When the people had come back from Babylon and rebuilt the Temple, although it lacked some of the Sancta of the first Temple, it nevertheless was able to broadcast the message: “The universe exists on three coordinates: on Torah, on Avodah and on Gemillut Hassadim.” The divine name had settled in the Temple and the broadcast was resumed.

A new culture, that of the Hellenists, spread over Asia minor and the Fertile Crescent with the broadcast that was inimical to the one that came from Jerusalem. They invaded the Temple, desecrated it, offered swine on its altar and thereby changed the broadcast.  This proved allergic to the soul of the Jews, who under the Maccabees, took up the sword against the Hellenists, and after fierce battles in which they experienced that God helped them, they freed the Temple and purified it.

Now they needed to light the sacred Menorah. In order to do this one must have specially and meticulously prepared olive oil. Finally after much searching they found one little cruse of oil still sealed with the seal of the high priest that contained just enough to light the Menorah for one day.

It takes seven days to make fresh oil. They didn’t want to wait until they had enough oil for the continuous lighting. That would’ve meant a delay. They so craved to receive the sacred broadcast that they did not wait. When the oil in the Menorah burned for eight days, the period needed until fresh supplies of oil would be available, it was seen as a miracle.

The natural order was at one time seen by religious teachers as being superseded by the supernatural order. I like to speak of it as the miraculous order that at times becomes visible to our awareness as it steadily suffuses what we call the natural order. Much of liturgy and teaching prepares us to tune into that miraculous order. (Culturally, the natural order has been subverted to utilitarian purposes. The stronger that template covers the natural order the less we are in touch with the miraculous order).

The ritual and liturgy connected with Hanukkah and the candles are there to cleanse the doors of our perceptions so that we might again be attuned to the order of the miraculous. So we are taught that “these candles and their light are sacred and we have no permission to make use of them. All we must do is to just look at them.”

Gazing at the candles as they are in themselves is the meditative contemplation we are urged to do on Hanukkah.

While it is important to display the menorah so that it could be seen from the street, the purpose is that even the street may receive the benefit of Pirsuma Nissa / to be made aware of the miraculous order.

Olam, Shanah, Nefesh As Eons

The Sefer Yetzirah speaks about the three dimensions of Olam, Shanah and Nefesh:

  • Olam / world, denotes the dimension of space
  • Shanah / year, denotes dimension of time
  • Nefesh / soul, spirit denotes the dimension of the individual.

There is a view that described each one of these three dimensions as dominating a separate eon.

 [NOTE RZ:  Joachim de Fiore, a Christian mystic spoke of it as the eon of the Father, which is followed by the eon of the Son and then followed by the eon of the Holy Spirit.]

  • When the dimension of space, olam, dominated we spoke of the Temple in Jerusalem, in a particular locale.
  • When the Temple was destroyed and a paradigm shift happened, we speak of the subsequent eon as the one of Shanah.  We no longer had the sanctuary in space, but the sanctuary became one of time:  through Shabbat and the holy days.  Here, the High Holy Days serve as the source of the broadcast for the whole year. We lived our spiritual life in the dimension of sacred time, in the illo tempore time.
  • The paradigm shift occurred in our day after the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Moon walk and Internet.  The Gaian crisis brings us into an eon where things depend on the individual, the nefesh and at this point:
    • The receiver of the broadcast is what is in our heart. In order to fine-tune this receiver it is also necessary to be in some connection and communion with individuals who are attuned to the sacred broadcast.

The rules stated in the Talmud specify that all that is necessary is for each household to have one candle at the door facing the street, located as follows: “the Mezuzzah at the right and the Hanukkah candle at the left of the door and below 10 handbreadths.” The Talmud then further tells us that there are people who are more meticulous and generous in their observance, the Mehadrin, and that they have one candle per person of the household. Then, the Talmud says that those who are meticulous of the meticulous, the Mehadrin min haMehadrin, the generous of the generous, will each one light one through eight candles following the teachings of Hillel beginning with one the first night and going up to eight by adding another candle each night. Shammai’s school opted for beginning with eight and going down to one reducing by one each night instead of increasing.

[NOTE (RZ): In another area of difference between rulings, Hillel says that the lights should have many colors whereas Shammai says that there is only one color to the lights. Therefore, it has been my custom to add two electric menorahs to the lighting, one with colored light bulbs following the rule of Hillel and one with only white bulbs following the rule of Shammai, one tradition with each menorah.]

To return to the main theme:  Hanukkah is all about Pirsuma Nissa and being in touch with the miraculous order.  The place from which we can tune in to the miraculous order is in opening ourselves to the imaginal realm and to look at what is before us; the light of the Hanukkah candles.

At the very time when we are in the darkest days of the year, lighting the candles for Hanukkah brings us back to the miraculous order.  This is what we need to invoke for ourselves and for the rest of the world at this time.  May we be granted the vision of the good world that is to emerge from the present dark chaos.

[NOTES by gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]

4 Responses to “This Is About HANUKKAH”

  1. Lynda Danzig Says:

    This was so beautiful and educational. I actually feel more open in my heart.
    My husband and I recently watched NOVA, the topic was quantum physics, specifically String Theory. I find it completely fascinating and possible to understand the contraction and expansion of Hashem, acupuncture and the after life with these theories. I wonder if these theories and this Kabbalistic wisdom overlap in Rabbi Zalman’s teachings today?
    Many Blessings and joy,
    Lynda Danzig

  2. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Cf. to Reb Zalman’s published books, Paradigm Shift, Integral Halachah and especially Keys to the Wisdom of Truth ( ) where your question is dealt with in detail.
    Briefly, string theory and accupuncture are part of our paradigm, our Weltanschauung, how we understand and relate to the universe.
    The divine name Yod Heh Vav Heh does not change and is eternal. Humankind, on the other hand, changes over time, so at different periods of our history, when we have established connections with God, it was done with different assumptions and understandings.
    But, to answer your question: Yes. There is an overlap in Reb Zalman’s teachings between the emerging cosmology and the renewal of the Jewish heritage in the following ways:
    1) Kabbalah requires updating based on the work of the avant garde, the visionaries and pioneers who help define our cosmology.
    2) A connection to the broadcast is necessary if we are to even think about experimenting or studying potential updates to Jewish practice and Halachah.

  3. Lynda Danzig Says:

    Hi Seth,
    Thanks for your response. I will read these books, ask new questions and share what I have learned.
    I am interested to know in reference to 1), who does the updating of the Kabbalah?
    In reference to 2), who is doing the updating to Jewish practice and Halachah? Is there a Jewish think tank?

  4. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Hi Lynda:
    The change process for Judaism functions through institutions setting policies but also on deeper levels. According to Reb Zalman, (cf. his book Integral Halachah), Judaism is something alive. As such, he bases his analysis of it on the theories of biologist Rupert Sheldrake and talks about its development in terms of its morphogenetic fields.

    We make a difference as individuals when we become active participants in Jewish communities where we pray together, study together and collaborate on the questions that come up when we try to align the practice of mitzvot with bringing the divine into our lives. The transformation comes about through a process of transpersonal psychology.

    Hope this helps. Happy Hanukkah

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