Little children find it very difficult to do things by themselves. They need a constant helping hand, constant encouragement. They can be bold, but only when daddy is close by. When he's out of sight, tears quickly replace bravado until once again they feel the hand that comforts.

As babies, our first faltering steps are greeted by parental glee. Hands reach out to guide our every step. When we stumble, Mom and Dad are always there to stop us from falling.

There comes a day, however, when we stumble, but we find no helping hand. We fall to the ground. Tears fill our eyes and dismay fills our hearts. We look around in amazement. "Where are you?... Mommy? Daddy? Are you still there?"

Only from the moment our parents let us fall can we learn to walk by ourselves. Only from the moment that our parents are prepared to let us become adults can we stop being children. If, as parents, we never give our children the possibility of falling down, they will never learn to stand by themselves.

Of course, to everything there is a season. A child challenged beyond his capabilities may assume that he will never be able to achieve what is being asked of him and suffer from this negative programming for life. But a challenge in its correct time is an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to get to know who we really are.

The festival of Chanuka celebrates two events: the defeat of the vast Seleucid Greek army by a handful of Jews, and the miracle of the one flask of pure oil which burned for eight days in the Menora. If you think about it, our joy at Chanuka should center on the deliverance from our enemies. However, our main focus is the miracle of the lights. Why should this be?

Chanuka took place after the last of the prophets - Chagai, Zecharia, and Malachi - had passed away and God no longer communicated directly with man.

Suddenly, we were like children left alone in the dark. The Parental Hand had gone. No longer could we depend on God reaching down to us. Now we would need to stretch our arms upward to God. We had been given a chance to grow, to find out who we were. In the darkness of a world without prophecy, we would need to forge our connection with God in the furnace of our own hearts.

But it's difficult. Sometimes we feel, "Daddy...where are you? Are you still there?" The heart grows a little cold with longing. Sometimes we need a little extra help. The joy of Chanuka is not so much because we got what we prayed for, deliverance from the Greeks, but the fact that God let us know that He was still there: He answered our prayers with a miracle. In a world where spiritual decay had tainted the holiest places, a light burst forth to tell us that He was still there, that darkness had not extinguished the light. It was only hiding it.

God communicated to us through the darkness of a world without prophecy. He let us know that He was still with us even in the dark. Even though the channel of prophecy had fallen silent, our Father was still there, watching over us. That little flask of oil would burn and burn. We would take those lights with us into the long night of exile, and we would know by the very fact of our survival against all odds that He was with us even in the darkest of nights.

Why is it that more Jews observe Chanuka than any other festival? Those lights didn't burn for just eight days. Those little lights have been burning for two thousand years. However far someone may be from their Jewish roots, you can still find a menora burning in the window. A little spark that lingers on. A little holy spark hidden in the heart of a child.

More articles available at Ohr Somayach's website.