October 17, 2018

How Hanukkah is Transforming the Soul

When Jews were introduced to Greek culture and ideas, they were not necessarily turned off. After all, the Jews appreciated the Greek love of wisdom. However, they also recognized that there lurks something dangerous. As one one rabbi wrote, “The rule of the mind is certainly preferable to the rule of the body, but ultimately Judaism maintains a belief in something more: the soul.”  Because Hellenist Greeks could not see the soul, they didn’t believe in the soul.

The Ramban wrote that, “[i.e. Aristotle] denied the reality of anything that he could not experience with his senses. He and his wicked students were arrogant enough to believe that anything which they did not understand could not possibly be true.”

But there is more in the universe and to life than what we can understand or see.

As Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits writes, “We maintain that we can accomplish more than we understand – we can reach worlds that we know nothing about. What is Greek wisdom? Worship of the human mind, human body, aesthetic sense, and values that speak to the human being. What is the aspect that God gave the human being that sets us apart? Kedushah – holiness – there is nothing more powerful, nothing more beautiful, nothing deeper. Through kedushah we affect worlds, transcending physical existence by way of our own actions and intentions. The universe is a lot bigger than what Greece thought it was.”

When we light the Hanukkah candles, we are transforming our souls and the world through the light of holiness.