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Your Life In A Single Oil Flask

12/23/2016 10:04:05 AM

Dec23

The great miracle of Chanukah. A single flask of oil, capable of fueling candlelight for only 1 day, miraculously lasted for 8 days.

Apparently, the very finding of the 1 pure flask was in itself quite a surprise. The Greeks had tampered with, and rendered impure, the Temple’s entire storage of oil, every single flask. All except for one, which was probably buried somewhere deeply, beyond the visibility of the Greeks. It sounds quite coincidental, but many suggest that this too was a miracle.

Which brings me to my question: If G-d can miraculously create 7 days’ worth of oil fuel, then why did He orchestrate the story as such, that they searched and 'found' only 1 pure flask, which could burn for one day, and then add to it 7 miraculous dosages of oil. Why didn't He just keep it simpler, and miraculously create 8 flasks of oil? Or miraculously create the 1 initial flask? Why the tedious bit about having the Jews panic, as they nervously searched, and astonishingly found, the 1 flask?

Perhaps the answer to this is simple and profound.

Many of us fall into one of two categories. Either, we're the type who tries to create, control and predict our entire life story. We look to singlehandedly steer the course of every circumstance and drama we encounter. We refuse to let anything simply follow its own path. It must go our way, and we must always be able to understand and explain what is happening. We’’ call this person the ‘absolute control freak’.

Or, we're the type who has long surrendered our control or influence over anything in our lives. We accept that there too many other factors beyond our control which each sway things in different directions, so we no longer desire or care to predict what will be. We have little or no ambition; we let ourselves be pulled by life's waves, and are content to go wherever we are taken. We’ll call this person ‘absolutely carefree’.

Both of these extremes are mistaken. The ‘absolute control freak’ obviously has no faith. They think that they are the only source and cause for their life’s destiny, and that nothing or no-one other than themselves can bring them to where they ought to go. They don’t believe in G-d, or in others.

But the ‘absolutely carefree’ also has no faith. They don’t believe in themselves, that they are capable of living an intentional life, and that they are truly qualified to navigate their life in a planned and purposeful direction.

The healthy person is one who, in the appropriate dosages, believes in G-d, in others, and in themselves.

Now back to the Chanukah story.

G-d was certainly capable of miraculously creating all 8 flasks, just like He was able to create a universe, split the reed-sea and shower manna from heaven. He is even capable of depositing a billion dollars into your bank account overnight. The question is though, does He want to?

Imagine the following: The Jews have just defeated the Greeks and won the war. They excitedly enter the Temple in order to inaugurate the Temple worship, when they begin to freak out. How will we light the Menorah if we have no pure oil? (Thus far is what actually transpired. The next part is the twist.) Suddenly, out of the blue, a flask of oil appears, perched perfectly on top of the Menorah. Presto, a miracle!

What message would this send to the Jews? If it were me, I would react as follows: “Hey, this G-d of ours is real neat. Whenever we’re a little desperate, He swiftly kicks in and magically fixes things. The next time I’m in trouble, I’ll just sit back and let Him take over.” And after some time, if this behavior of G-d’s repeats itself, and I would never have the chance to actually help myself, I’d probably catch myself eventually saying, “You know, I really don’t think I am even capable of getting through this. I am so useless. I’m a loser.”

It’s the classic mistake about relationships. It starts off innocently with how much we truly want to love and give to the other, be it a spouse or a child. We don’t want them to do anything – we want to do it all for them. But what happens to the other when we make them so dependent? What have we really ‘given’ them? Initially they may be appreciative. But after a while, they’ll start to get lazy. And eventually, they’ll completely doubt themselves, and will feel powerless and incompetent.

So whilst G-d was ready to stand by us and help us through our challenge, He waited for us to take the first steps. The Jews didn’t throw their hands in the air when they saw all the oil flasks damaged. They continued searching, with the hope and aspiration that they would indeed achieve something marvelous.

In life, we can never make it alone. We should never kid ourselves that we can solely control our destiny. Nor should we kid ourselves that we are powerless.

We are completely empowered to do our part. We bear the responsibility to put our neck out there, to step out of our comfort zone, to work very hard, to exhaust all options, and to exercise our fullest potential. If we don’t achieve this much, then we have failed to have faith in ourselves.

Once we do this, then let G-d, and others, take care of the rest. Keep an open mind, and let go of being in control. There are so many other factors which will enter the mix, so just ride along, with confidence and vulnerability. Rest assured that once you have played your part, the rest will work out as it should, however it does. If we aren’t comfortable with this, then we have failed to have faith in G-d and in others.

So this Chanukah, try to add in your faith and heroism. Believe in yourself enough to serve as the 1 single flask that can shine so bright. And believe in G-d enough to be assured that your light will continue to shine more than your ever imagined. 

Sun, May 19 2019 14 Iyyar 5779