There is more to you than meets the eye. The same can be said for every person in the world, and every situation in which we find ourselves, be it personally, in our families, our communities, our nation or our world.
There is more to each of us — more possibility and potential than we almost ever allow ourselves to imagine. If we really knew and trusted that single principle, we could overcome many of the challenges we face, and even make some wonderful things happen, for ourselves and for others as well. It’s a 2,000-year-old premise — one that lies at the heart of the successes we celebrate on Chanukah, and one that can guide us to new successes again and again.
Chanukah is a war story to be sure, and this year, that feels especially appropriate to the times in which we are living. In the weeks leading up to this year’s celebration of the Festival of Lights, we have lived through war in the Middle East, battles in our government that threaten our economy, and that is just for starters!
But do not despair, for as much as Chanukah is a war story, it is also a story of finding unexpected victories and unanticipated answers to the questions that confront us. That was true 2,000 years ago, and it can be true today as well.
From the ancient battlefields of Judea, to the contemporary struggles for peace and security in the Middle East, to whatever deal gets worked out in Washington, success hinges on seeing more possibilities than are typically seen. Unless one is satisfied with the status quo, then one needs more than status quo thinking to create new solutions. As Albert Einstein put it, no problem can be solved at the level of consciousness that created it. If we want new and better solutions to the challenges we face, we need new and better thinking.
Happily, the Chanukah story not only tells of a people that dared to raise its level of consciousness, thinking and acting in bold new ways, but it even nurtures our own ability to follow in their footsteps, and create solutions that don’t yet exist. And it all hinges on the notion that there is more to you — to each of us and to everything — than meets the eye.
Imagine it is the year 163 BCE, those who fought alongside Judah Maccabee finally enter the newly liberated Temple in Jerusalem, as described on page 21a of Tractate Shabbat in the Babylonian Talmud. You know the story, whether from there or some other source. They discover a little jar of oil lying on the ground in that war-ravaged building. Now imagine deciding that it contains enough fuel to light up the Temple even before they could possibly know for sure that it does.
That decision, to see something as more than it first appeared to be, is the beginning of something miraculous. What was true then, can be true again.
While nobody can promise miracles, we all know that our willingness to see world through those “Maccabean eyes” is so often what makes the seemingly impossible, possible. It worked for them and it can work for us.
Imagine seeing yourself as both that jar of oil found in the Temple, and the person who dares to trust the depth of what the jar contains. That’s a Chanukah story as meaningful today as it was when it first occurred.
Think of Chanukah not simply as a way to celebrate the memory of something in the past, but as an eight-day refresher course in remembering how great you really are, a course in rediscovering how much untapped potential you have, and how much could happen if you truly trusted in both. Add to that, the ability to see others that way — to see life and the world that way — and you have a recipe for something truly amazing.
This Chanukah, take a few moments on eight consecutive nights to live an ancient practice in seeing the rich potential both in yourself and in the world. As the sun is setting, as the day is ending, and as your energy may be ebbing, try answering the following questions as a way to re-energize, re-engage, and see that there really more to you than meets the eye, and that there are more solutions to that which ails us than we often initially appreciate.
Ask yourself, what untapped or underutilized strength skill or passion lies within you, just waiting to be used, like the oil in the jar discovered by the Maccabees?
Think about what chances you are willing to take to make your life happier and more fulfilling. What chances are you willing to take to make the world just a little bit better?
Imagine in what unexpected places and by nurturing what new relationships, you could discover the energy and wisdom you need to turn your hopes into reality.
And because we are all in this together, consider how you could help at least one other person to answer the previous questions for themselves, and identify who that person might be.
We will never know what went through the minds of those ancient soldiers who found, trusted, and kindled the oil in that little jar, but answering these questions will help us to recover their heroic vision and reconnect to our own inner jar of oil.
We can be the Chanukah story, and in doing so, give ourselves, and those we love a very precious gift, not to mention giving deeper meaning to the words of the second blessing recited over the candles lit each night. We can make credible the claim that suggests that miracles are not simply a thing of the past, but possible to make happen in our own day as well.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is president of Clal – the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.