The month of Teves starts out with the special holiday of Chanuka. This holiday is a very powerful time for spirituality and a lot of insight can be gained at this time. Chanuka starts in the previous month and continues for three days into Teves. Chanuka is not a holiday from the Bible. It was established by the rabbis in Talmudic times in acknowledgement of the Jews’ miraculous victory over the Greek oppression. The Greeks attempted to destroy the loyalty the Jews had to the Bible. It is not part of Judaism to obliterate other peoples. All the Jews ask for throughout history is to be left alone to worship God the way they are commanded to. They don’t missionize. They don’t make pogroms. They include all of humanity in their prayers every day. How ironic it is that they are so abused by other nations. The mitzvah of Chanuka is to light a candle in the house (or in front if you live in Israel), to symbolize the reminder of the miracle that happened in the Holy Temple when the Jews regained control. Inside the Temple a menora was always burning to symbolize the study of Torah. When the Jews took the Temple back they found only a small jar of oil that was ritually pure; enough for only one day. When it was lit, the flame kept alight for eight days, long enough for them to make new oil. The mitzvah is not to make a bonfire to publicize the miracle. We just light a small light, not too high up, not too low. This is the symbol of the Jew. We don’t make a big fuss. We just show the world that we’re here and we want to follow the ideals that God gave the world.
Its noticeable that in some other religions the only one who goes to Heaven is an adherent of that religion. Judaism states that any righteous person has a stake in Heaven. Not only that, but a Jew who does not fulfill their potential will not get into Heaven. Any person today can become a Jew if they choose. It’s not an exclusive club. Our Bible includes the history of all humanity, not just the Jews. There is a religion within Judaism for non-Jews called the Noahide laws. In every possible way Judaism seeks to be a universal religion. The necessity to be separate and different is only to be able to fulfill the laws that God set down. If we assimilate amongst the other nations that have not chosen to follow this path we will disappear. The oil of the menora is the symbol of this separateness. Oil always separates itself.
The month of Teves is linked by the kabbalists to the letter “ayin” whose numerical value is seventy. This number is the sign of universality. The Torah says there are seventy nations in the world. There are seventy facets to the Torah according to the sages. Although Teves starts as a time of joy, it also contains a fast day due to tragedies of the past. It has within it both joy and sadness. This is the state of the world we live in. It is imperfect and needs to be corrected. Even the celebration of Chanuka is a bit sad. Why did we need to fight the Greeks at all? Why did we lose the control over the Temple in the first place?
The word “ayin” also means eye. An eye can look at something in two ways, good or bad; a glass can be half empty or half full. Our view of things can often define for us how they will affect us. This is a theme in many writings and is noted in an interesting statement by the sages, “A wise man has eyes in his head.” This means that his view of things is colored by his intellect and not his emotions. Similarly, the sages often refer to a generous person as having a “good eye”. In all these instances and others we see the eye being used as a metaphor for attitude. Of course, we don’t want to ignore reality; it’s merely a question of how you view it. In Teves we express this idea by both celebrating victory during Chanuka and mourning tragedy on the tenth of Teves. Its all a matter of how you look at it. Life is not black and white all the time; there can be a mixture of joy and sadness. Our eye, however, is a tool to help us see the truth amidst the lies, and the light amidst the darkness. It is our hope that someday the world joins us in our universality.