Is Chanukah a religious holiday?
The core theme of Chanukah is oil. One little cruse of pure olive oil was discovered and it miraculously burned for eight days. Today, we light menorahs (preferably of oil) and eat foods fried in oil, latkes and jelly doughnuts – great for your soul, not so much for your waistline.
So Chanukah seems to be less about religion than it is about oil.
Oil – as well as water, bread and wine – represent different aspects of Torah. Water and bread represent the revealed aspects, such as what to do and how to live, while wine and oil represent the hidden layers, like why to live and what happens when we do.
The revealed gets into the divine mechanics; the secrets get into the divine soul.
Chanukah – and its emphasis on oil – is all about touching the deepest secreted levels of the divine and the deepest, secreted levels of our selves. This is how we light up the dark night.
Two powerful stories on Chanukah in the Russian gulag reveal this hidden secret.
This is not “religious.”
This is simply divine.