Many people think that in lighting giant Hanukah menorahs in places like Manhattan, Paris, Melbourne, and Berlin, we are “a light to the nations.” However pretty and moving this may be, the light of these solitary and scattered menorahs gets swallowed up by the deep surrounding darkness. It’s a little like lighting a match in a dark alley. For a few seconds, there’s a flickering of light, and then it vanishes, engulfed by the darkness of the alley. Even if matches were lit in alleyways all over the world, the light would shine for an instant then disappear.
The only way of sustaining the light is by lighting all of the matches as one great bonfire, and this can only be accomplished by bringing the matches together and kindling them in one place – the Land of Israel.
When all of the scattered exiled Jews are gathered in the Land of Israel, a great Divine light goes out to the world like a beacon, illuminating the darkness of the nations. This is the meaning of “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from Yerushalayim.” The light goes out from Yerushalayim, and not from Times Square or Beverly Hills. We become a “light to the nations” precisely when we are living together in Eretz Yisrael, and not when we are scattered all over the world, minorities in foreign lands, stripped of our Israelite nationhood and our pride.
During the long exile, the lighting of the Hanukah menorah had meaning in reminding the Jews in faraway places, where we were strangers in someone else’s land, that we were still connected to an eternal light and a Land of miracles – but now, with the re-establishment of Medinat Yisrael, and the ingathering of Jews from all over the world, we no longer need the menorahs in New York. The time has come for each and every Jew to take his little light and join in with the great light that is shining forth from Israel.
For example, even in this early stage of our Redemption, when millions of our outcasts have gathered in Eretz Yisrael, even though we are still a ways from our full Torah power, still, even in our temporary secular/Torah state, all of the world’s attention is focused on what the Jews are doing in Israel. Pick up any leading newspaper from the capitals of the world and chances are you will find a front-page story about Israel. When a settler lights a small menorah on a hilltop in Judea, the whole world goes crazy. The United Nations rushes to condemn it. The White House issues and immediate warning. And the Europeans protest at the top of their lungs, like a Sunday church choir.
No one cares about the giant menorah in Berlin or Brooklyn. But a tiny menorah lit by a Jewish settler in Beit-El, Elon Moreh, Yitzhar, or some deserted and unnamed hilltop, causes an international raucous. Why? Not because the settler is infringing on Palestinian rights. No one really cares about the Arabs. The uproar comes because, in their unconscious psyches, the gentiles sense that with each Jew who returns to the Land of Israel and sets up his home on a Biblical mountainside, the one and only G-d of Israel is returning with him, to establish His rule in the world, and the nations cry out, blinded by the light.
Even in our present interim stage of Redemption, when our incredible Torah power is still hidden, and when prophecy has not yet reappeared, the sons of Esav and Yishmael sense the great light and they tremble, knowing deep in their hearts that their religions and doctrines are false, that G-d has not abandoned the Jews as they claim, and that the prophecies of the Torah will surely come to pass if they don’t try everything in their power to stop it, so they can continue on with their falsehood, stealing, and whoring.
That’s why the light of even one small menorah on a hilltop in Samaria, where the Hanukah story all began, shines more brightly than all of the scattered menorahs, however towering that they might be, in the lands of the gentiles, “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from Yerushalayim.”
If you missed seeing my singing Hanukah greeting on Youtube, you can still see it, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8oPjfl2Bsk&feature=youtu.be