A Chanukah light on its own is just a regular candle. It could be one of the colored ones that come out of a box of 44. A regular wax candle. Or maybe a little cup full of olive oil. Anything that can keep a flame burning.
What makes it a Chanukah candle is that it is placed with other candles in a particular arrangement. That they are put in a Chanukah menorah. Once in a chanukiah, the candles are recognizable not as ordinary flames but as the fulfillment of the mitzvah, the sacred commandment, to remember the story of the Maccabees and their victory over tyranny. The mitzvah to make known that a great miracle happened in the Holy Temple when a small quantity of oil refused to go out.
And so with us. Alone we all come from different places, have different ways of seeing the world, express ourselves in different manners, burn with our own flame. But when we are placed together, in relationship to each other in the right place and the right time, we are more than single candles. In difficult times and joyous ones, we stand with each other, remind each other that we are part of a bigger calling, and renew the miracles that happened long ago and these very days.
Michael Bernstein is rabbi of Congregation Gesher L’Torah.