All I Want for Chanukah is to get Married — By Ben

Photo by Maria Lindsey

It was just before Chanukah two years ago that I proposed to my wife. I had planned to pop the question during Chanukah, but after getting the finished ring from a jewelry designer, it was kinda burning a hole in my pocket and I couldn’t wait. My impatience was a blessing in disguise as I had a bit of a Covid scare which would have foiled all my plans anyway. So it all worked out.

The transition from single life, to engagement, and finally to marriage is a stressful one to say the least. That being said, young adults (as well as not-so-young adults) would gladly take on the stress to finally find their soulmate. Such a miracle would be quite the Chanukah present. What’s stopping most people from finding their life partner? Everyone has their own issues and there’s no one magic answer. However, I think the miracle of Chanukah may shed some light (eh, see what I did there?) on those who find themselves still single.

You might jump to the obvious answer, that the limited oil in the Temple lasted for eight days instead of one. However, the rabbis aren’t so quick to accept that. There was plenty of oil in the Temple, it just wasn’t preferable (having been handled by idolaters) for lighting the Menorah. But that prohibition was only a rabbinic decree and given the dire circumstances, the other oil available would have been okay to use. Others say the miracle was the victory against the Greeks, but this isn’t exactly true either. We did get the Temple back, but the Greeks weren’t really defeated.

What is the Miracle of Chanukah?

If we look at the prayer that is added to the daily service, we have a long section known as al hanisim.

There’s no actual mention of a military victory, and there’s certainly no mention of energy efficient oil. According to Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky, when the Maccabees arrived at the Temple and found it utterly desecrated with limited kosher oil, it could have been very easy for them to lose heart. But instead, “they did not give up... [this] is the very heart of the miracle of Chanukah.

Why is the Holiday called Chanukah?

The word Chanukah actually means dedication, for the rededication of the Temple. But how many of us have that concept of dedication anywhere in our eight nights of celebration? Perhaps the rededication isn’t about the revitalization of the Temple, but the rededication of the Jews’ spirit to the Temple. The mission, as Rabbi Twersky implies. If we look at the al hanisim prayer (you can see it in full here) it essentially says: Thanks for the miracles. We were oppressed. Things looked bleak. Then against all odds, very unlikely victories happened. Then there is the final section; we came to the Temple, cleansed it, purified it, and kindled the lights. Why does the prayer need four separate actions? Before I answer this, let me tell you a little bit about how I met my wife.

It was in the midst of the pandemic and I had pretty much resolved that I probably wouldn’t be dating much during the disaster. However, I still visited the various dating sites. There was one site in particular I had written off. OkCupid. The Jewish girls were pretty much secular and I saw the same faces over and over again. But one day, when I checked out of habit, there was a new face: Rachel’s.

Now on the flip side, Rachel had been dating during the pandemic and was getting pretty fed up. She had come across my profile on another site years before and thought I was attractive. But she had swiped left thinking that Orthodox was definitely a deal breaker. She considered herself pretty secular and though she knew she wanted to marry Jewish, she was still open to dating non-Jews. But after being put through the romance wringer, she finally thought to herself, “What am I doing dating non-Jewish guys?” At that point she finally added her religion to her dating profile, and that was the day she popped up in my Jewish-only filtered search.

This choice alone created the possibility for our connection. With that in mind, let’s look back at the prayer and this concept of dedication. When the Maccabees came to the Temple, clearly they were committed to the goal. But why did they need to cleanse and purify it? Can you purify something without cleaning it? The Hebrew word for cleanse is ופנו which means to empty. However, if we look at the shoresh (or root) .פ.נ.ה the definition is to turn to and focus attention. Other forms of this shoresh include readying for a purpose, changing direction, and interior or inside. When Rachel came to her realization, she did all of these things and in doing so, she rededicated herself to her goal of matrimony.

Cleansing for the Light

We are all searching for that burning passion of kindled light. But in order to get there, we have to prepare for it. In the way I had given up on marriage during the darkness and uncertainty of the pandemic, yet love still emerged; so too the darkness surrounding Chanukah makes the possibility for light even greater. But first you have to show up, we came. Then we have to do the work of realigning our goals and cleaning up what’s holding us back. Cleansed it. Once we rid ourselves of that dead weight, we’re more free to excel in our better qualities. Purified it. So that finally the light of inspiration, connection, magic, and miracle can happen. Kindled the lights. To all those still searching for their besherit, their zivug, or their better half, don’t give up. But rather than continuing to do what you’ve always been doing, perhaps this Chanukah, take a deep look inside and try to find what might be blocking you. This is the process of rededication and that is the miracle of Chanukah.


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