Just when we finally start remembering Al Hanissim, the festival of Chanukah is over. The scent of olive oil may still waft through our houses, yet there will be no ninth candle kindled tonight, and no dreidels spun.
One of the miracles that we commemorated over the course of Chanukah is the neis pach hashemen. There was only enough oil to last one day, but through the miracles of the Almighty, the menorah remained aglow for eight days until there was once again oil that was fit for Temple use. After those eight illuminated, joyous and magical days, people went on with their lives and tried to rebuild after the havoc wrought by the Greeks. We too, are now moving on. If the holiday of Chanukah is known for the light that it brings, we are now enveloped in darkness, the same glaring darkness that consumed us the day before we lit our first candles and a host of other times prior. But that’s only true if we give way to the darkness and let it settle into our lives.
There is a well-known dispute found in the Gemara as to how we ignite the Chanukah lights. Beis Hillel is of the opinion that we are to light one candle on the first night of Chanukah and add another each night, while Beis Shammai rules that we are light eight candles on the first night and descend until the cessation of the holiday. Ultimately, we follow the opinion of Hillel, who explains “Maalin bakodesh ve’ein moridin”, that pertaining to matters of holiness, we ascend and do not go down. True, the transition from the eighth day to the ninth night marks the end of Chanukah, yet we also should mark this time as the catalyst for dispelling the darkness in our lives, our own daled amos and beyond. “Maalin bakodesh ve’ein moridin” is not a concept exclusive to the mitzvah of ner Chanukah: it’s a state of mind. It’s the mantra that must be ingrained in the fibers of our very being. We go up, but we never go down. One need not look very far to encounter the darkness. It may be around us, but we do not let it in, we must not let it in, even for a moment. No light is too insignificant to conquer the pitch black. We must turn off the darkness, and turn on the light. Our chanukios may have used up the last of the oil for this Chanukah, but that doesn’t mean the kedushah stops here. Just like the flames, maalin bakodesh–ve’ein moridin. Period! Mosif veholich leolam vaed!