The First Flame: Counting the Stars

What do the Chanukah flames signify to you? Share your insights on the post for the daily flame and inspire others all over the world!

Last year, I asked one of my daughters this question and she responded, “The light of Chanukah signifies spirit and hope!”

Have you ever tried counting the stars in the sky? In Genesis, G-d promises Abraham that the Jewish people will someday be as numerous as the stars in the sky. G-d enjoins Abraham to try and count the stars to see if he can quantify them knowing full well that the task is impossible. How can we count the infinite?

The answer emerges from the story of the Maccabees.

Imagine if the Maccabees had abandoned hope of defeating the mighty Greek army. Their battle was against all odds, yet they never lost hope. Possessing deep faith and courage, they dreamed the impossible. As Ethics of Our Fathers states, “It is not up to us to finish the task but we are not free to desist from trying.”

G-d’s command to count the stars implanted within Jews of all generations the spiritual audacity to dream and realize the impossible. Throughout our history, we are called upon to maintain our faith in the eternality of the Jewish people and serve as G-d’s partners in realizing our destiny.

One of my most moving Chanukah experiences was in Jerusalem when I accompanied a small group on a walking tour of the Western Wall tunnels. Although I had walked these steps before, I experienced an eternal moment. My soul stirred as I gazed into the flames of the Chanukiah burning only yards away from the original Menorah lit on the Temple mount. Thousands of years later, the flame burns brightly… so close to the kindling of the flame by the Maccabees thousands of years ago.

The first flame ignites our dreams of transforming the impossible into the possible for the Jewish people. The reading of the Prophets on Chanukah echoes this theme. In stirring the Jews to rebuild the Temple after the Babylonian exile, Zechariah proclaims, “Not by might and not by power but by Spirit” will we realize our dreams.

How can we ignite the impossible for the Jewish people? What will we do to hasten the coming of the Messiah? How will the lights of Chanukah motivate us to count the stars in the sky?

Share your inspiration!

Wishing you and your family a happy Chanukah!

With blessings,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen

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