Michael Laitman, On Quora: “Why did Hanukkah start?“
To understand why Hanukkah started, we need to first understand that the Jewish holidays describe special stages in our spiritual development, and also, that the Torah in general only discusses our spiritual development.
As such, Hanukkah is hardly mentioned in the Torah because it is a state we reach in our spiritual development which is still void of the reception of the light of the Torah. Rather, it is a state of preparation for spiritual corrections—the application of an intention to bestow upon our desire to receive—toward the state where we receive the upper light.
In terms of spiritual development, Hanukkah is the first Jewish holiday.
It expresses our development to the first spiritual level, which is called “Bina,” or “giving for the sake of giving,” a pure intention to give and bestow above the human ego that constantly wants to receive for personal benefit alone.
Achieving this state is possible if we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals who share a common spiritual aspiration, and who support and encourage each other to prioritize spiritual qualities of love, giving, bestowal and unity above our inborn egoistic reason, which constantly calculates in the opposite direction, i.e., how we can personally benefit from others.
Hanukkah is the initial level of unification we achieve by attaining a common intention to bestow above our egoistic desires. The word “Hanukkah” comes from two words, “Hanu Koh” (“park here”). It acts as the first pit stop of achieving the spiritual quality of bestowal above our corporeal egoism on our spiritual path to the attainment of greater and greater spiritual qualities upon the ego that also constantly grows.
By achieving the spiritual quality of bestowal and unity above our egoism, we gain the awareness that this is the way to attain the full revelation of the Creator—not just by applying an intention to bestow above our egoistic desire to receive, but that our desire acquires the nature of bestowal, and our reception of pleasure equates to our giving of pleasure.
This describes a very advanced spiritual state, which is called “reception for the sake of bestowal,” the reception of the spiritual light in order to give that light, through which we reveal the Creator via our equivalence of qualities, and enter into a mutual connection and dialog.
For the time being, we can focus on a target that is closer to us: that if we have a spiritual aspiration, we should seek a society of like-minded individuals with a common goal, and then in such a society, develop a new sense of bestowal and unification—”giving for the sake of giving”—above our inborn egoism, and by doing so, we will discover the state called “Hanukkah,” the first pit stop on the spiritual path.
Therefore, Hanukkah is our initial exit from a world of darkness—living in the confines of our narrow egoistic self-aimed interests—to a world of light—a world where the spiritual quality of bestowal and unification shines between us, in our common aspiration to unite above our ego.
Hanukkah is thus named “the festival of light.” It marks the start of our discovery of our spiritual state, how our soul lives and breathes according to qualities of bestowal that unify us all. It signifies the first spiritual correction of our desire: the transformation of our egoistic intention to receive for personal benefit alone to an altruistic intention to bestow and positively connect to others. This transformation is called “the Hanukkah miracle,” because of how we rise to a state opposite our inborn egoistic nature, which is all we know in our world, and which can only be conducted with help from a spiritual force that is outside our nature.
From this initial spiritual correction, we can continue our path of spiritual corrections, and advance to a state of full similarity with the spiritual quality of bestowal.
The custom of lighting candles on Hanukkah symbolizes these spiritual corrections that we carry out in our souls on the spiritual path.
The Greeks in the Hanukkah story are the egoistic reasons that calculate “What will I get out of it?” when confronted with an environment that encourages exiting our egos in order to give, bestow and unite with others. In other words, the Greeks symbolize egoistic desires to receive that awaken when we set ourselves up to rise to the first spiritual level of bestowal and unity.
On the contrary, the Maccabees in the Hanukkah story are the intentions to bestow, which require powerful unity in order to counter the war of the Greeks, i.e., to counter the egoistic reasoning that rejects the spiritual qualities of giving and uniting. The war between the Greeks and the Maccabees thus has nothing to do with nationalities, as it is an inner war between two opposed qualities of giving and receiving, or spirituality and corporeality.
Therefore, it is my hope that we will reach the understanding of how Hanukkah and the other Jewish holidays discuss spiritual corrections, our rising in unity above our inborn egoism. The more that we succeed in understanding, applying and spreading this awareness, the more we will see a positive human society blossom with harmonious connections of love and bestowal between people replacing the current egoistic and destructive ones.