According to the hasidic master and kabbalist, R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740–1810), a key theme of Hanukkah is vision, and the festival offers us an important opportunity to work with and heal our sense of sight (see Kedushat Levi, Hanukkah 2:2).
The candles of Hanukkah provide an optimal object for visual meditation. As taught in the passages below, we are invited to gaze into their flames and to see the light of infinite potential. Our ancient tradition teaches that this light, the Or HaGanuz, is the hidden light of creation, consciousness, healing and redemption (see Genesis Rabbah 11:2, Niddah 30b and Chagigah 12a).
The hasidic master and kabbalist, R' Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov (1783–1841) often draws upon earlier mystical teachings in his classic work Bnei Yissaschar. In the teaching below, he writes that Hanukkah is an opportunity to train ourselves to see and appreciate as much of this light as we are able.
As we light and gaze at one more candle each day, we increase our capacity to see, appreciate and channel its infinite goodness, hope and creativity.
Gazing at the candles themselves is a profound practice, but they are not essential for us to do this work. The practice instructions below offer guidance for how to visualize this light in our mind's eye.
In the Kabbalah Through the Calendar course we explore this subject in depth.
Midrash Genesis Rabbah 11:2
R' Yehudah bar R' Shimon said:
The light which the Holy One, blessed be He, created on the first day - Adam could see with it from one end of the universe to the other.
בראשית רבה יא:ב
אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה בַּר רַבִּי סִימוֹן
אוֹר שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּיוֹם רִאשׁוֹן
אָדָם צוֹפֶה וּמַבִּיט בּוֹ
מִסּוֹף הָעוֹלָם וְעַד סוֹפוֹ
Bnei Yissascher on Kislev and Tevet 2:8
These days are called Hanukkah, meaning dedication and training for the future redemption when the Hidden Light will be completely revealed to us. As our sages say,
“It was hidden for the righteous of future times” (Chagigah 12a).
בני יששכר על כסלו וטבת ב:ח
קראו לימים האלה חנוכה
שהוא חינוך והרגל על לעתיד גאולה העתידה שאז יתגלה לנו האור הגנוז בשלימות
וגנזו לצדיקים לעתיד לבא
Practice Instructions for Hanukkah Visualization
Decide how long you want to practice for. If you're new to this, try five minutes. When you feel ready, gradually increase the practice time by five minutes at a time. Twenty minutes is a good sit for an intermediate practitioner, whereas more advanced meditators might sit for a hour.
Sit quietly in a comfortable position, with the spine upright, and the body balanced between relaxation and alertness. Close your eyes and let out a few yawns or sighs to relax your body.
Now just sit, not trying to change or do anything, except observe whatever arises in your body and mind – thoughts, feelings, whatever comes.
After a minute or two, set your intention to visualize Hanukkah candles in front of you. Their flames are radiating a light of pure love, hope and awareness.
When you are ready, visualize this light going wherever you like. Let it enter, heal, inspire and uplift yourself and whoever else you would like to bring to mind.
Let this light of love, hope and awareness spread to people you know and others, all around the world. Eventually, let it spread to all beings, everywhere.
When physical sensations, feelings, thoughts or other distractions come, don't try to fight them. Gently let them go and return your attention, over and over again, to appreciating and sharing the light of Hanukkah.
When it is time to bring your practice to a close, slowly open your eyes and gently let your body move however it wants to. What is arising for you in this moment? Is there anything that is asking to be expressed in any way?