The Secret of Hanukkah
What is Hanukkah?
— Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b
From the Talmud the familiar story
there we found one vial of pure
uncorrupted oil — shemen tahor —
intact with the seal of the kohen gadol
the HIGH Priest.
We found it, the Maccabees
and their holy band of insurgents did
fired it up enough for one day
it burned for eight.
From the prayers —
it’s the miracle of the war
the few against the many
oil not mentioned.
Rashi: which is the miracle?
The Chernobler Rebbe —
oil is wisdom.
Oil poured over the head
of the Priest, the King, the Messiah,
the head overflowing with wisdom,
like precious oil that ran down the beard of Aaron (Ps. 133:2).
Oil wisdom the pure finely beaten
most excellent of the olive oil
the olive that releases its dearest product when – pressed.
The Chernobler Rebbe brings down oil
— absorbs with contact.
I make perfume, first absorbing scent into oil
then distilling into purity of scent.
I acquire wisdom absorbed from the world
both its beauty and contaminants.
Remember the Greeks
who defiled all the oil but
one small vial of the pure
one small vial that when fired up
lit up the entire eight days.
So it is with the quality of wisdom within
— when it is tended it burns pure
burns long, burns sure
but it needs caretaking.
We are all in the game
of finding the purity within,
resisting the many contaminants
lurking everywhere around us, within us.
We might absorb the contaminants.
Lev tahor bara li Elokim
a heart of purity create in me O G*d (Ps. 51:12).
Stay close to sources of purity said the Rebbe
tend carefully the purifications —
prayers, good teachers,
the mashpia —
what inspires, who influences,
the good, the true, the pure
— what we can trust.
Locate wisdom in the language of soul
it needs tending, caretaking,
midwifery, it requires our attention —
On Hanukkah we fire up the quality of soul
every year it strengthens
this is the secret the raza of Hanukkah —
light up the wisdom within, celebrate it
let it be brought into the world
separate it from the contaminants
care for it in the common
and uncommon methods
of soul tending.
I am alone with my shoes and still I cannot move.
One step and the world would cease to exist.
Let me know in some abstract non-abstract way
in my soul, that we are safe.
Let me be wise myself, trust wisdom,
let us be wise together.
Let my soul speak freely to my heart.
Let my mind yield now and again
so my soul might take up residence.
I am carrying my soul with me wherever I go.
Ahead: a field, a small house, a mountain,
I unpack my bag, take out a sandwich, make tea.
I reach in, I pull up my soul —
it is a mouth now, a pen, a stick,
a candle, an inwardliness,
it has taken the shape of prayers.
Save me, my soul
pick me up and lay me down, carefully.