Oil is probably the most politically incorrect of all liquids. It simply refuses to compromise its uniqueness. If oil were a person it would almost certainly be condemned for its stubborn unwillingness to blend in with others. It chooses to remain aloof, separate and distinct. Mix it with water and it stays apart and maintains its own identity.
No matter how hard you try, oil stays true to itself and just won't assimilate.
Perhaps that's why it deserved to become the ultimate symbol of the Hanukah miracle.
When we celebrate the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, we need to remember what was really at stake in this confrontation. This was a war unlike any other. It wasn't fought to conquer more territory. It wasn't meant to capture more booty or bodies. This was ultimately a conflict between two totally difierent ways of viewing the world.
The story of Hanukah is all about a clash of cultures. The Greeks weren't out to kill the Jews. Their intent wasn't genocide of a people. It was rather a battle against those who threatened their commitment to hedonism, their infatuation with the body, athletic their obsession with superior competitions to prove f o u n d worth. In these they beauty – and the very meaning of life.
The Greeks worshiped the holiness of beauty. The Jews taught the world the beauty of holiness.
The victory of the Maccabees was the triumph of those who exemplified the unique characteristic of oil and refused to assimilate, and instead chose to remain steadfast in our mission to bring the light of Torah to the world. That is what makes the story of the Maccabees so very relevant in our time.
Assimilation today takes many forms. We've assimilated when all we want is to party, never to pray. We've assimilated when all we care about is what we look like on the outside, not what we feel like on the inside. We've assimilated when our greatest goals are fame and fortune rather than love and learning. We've assimilated when more than anything else we want to be envied by the eyes of our fellow man instead of being treasured in the sight of G-d. We've assimilated when our chief goal is to accumulate more goods rather than simply to be good. We've assimilated when we are far more interested in our inheritance than in our legacy, by what we get from the past rather than what we give to the future. We've assimilated when we consider our children burdens rather than blessings and when we believe the best things we can give them are valuables rather than values.
The Torah teaches us to revere the beauty of holiness. That was what the Maccabees fought for as they confronted an alien culture that stressed the body over the soul, the material over the spiritual. That remains our challenge.
As we bring more light into our homes every night with each additional flame, we affirm our belief that we will succeed. We will maintain our uniqueness that has enabled us not only to survive but to be the light for all of mankind.