As I gazed at the Chanukah candles this year and soon had to look off to the side because my eyes started aching, I couldn't help but feel it was... anti-climactic. If I think about everything that goes into Chanukah, all the doughnuts, and gift cards, and parties, and music - a story of a war of the few against the mighty Assyrian Greek army. And I make two blessings and light the candles and then...
And then nothing. Nothing happens (that I can see). No orchestral crescendo, no particularly interesting lighting, no explosions. What's missing?
The Gemara says that the Maccabees were able to win due to the merit of the Cohen Gadol 200 years earlier, Shimon HaZadik. In an epic meeting between him and Alexander the Great, Alexander demounted his horse and bowed down to Shimon HaZadik, to everyone's surprise, and his army's dismay. The explanation: before every victory in his military campaign, Shimon HaZadik appeared before Alexander in a dream in his holy and pure Yom Kippur attire, to foretell his victory. That means that even while the war of the Maccabees was taking place, the real power of the Jews and the nature of the conflict was hidden, and even the rise of the Greek empire was brought about by something Alexander the Great himself, warrior and student of Aristotle, only saw in a dream but did not really understand.
The Jews who fought the Greeks understood this. That's how they had the courage to fight, knowing very well that their weak figures didn't stand a chance against professional soldiers with the latest technology. They understood that despite what it looked like, there was much more there than what met the eye. They placed in their hearts that they are a people who Hashem took out of Egypt with miracles that defied every aspect of nature, and who received the Torah, and its mission to unite Hashem's vision of the world with their own personal experience. And they knew that inside the Holy Temple the Greeks desecrated, there lies a place called the Holy of Holies, where "Heaven and Earth Kiss," the "Kiss" we live for.
For Greek eyes, the candles are missing the drama, and the Jewish kid on the block is merely the only one without a shiny Christmas tree (but has Adam Sandler's list of Jewish celebrities to make him feel better). But Jewish eyes remember a history of tears of pain and tears of joy and visions of light born from darkness. If we use our minds to direct our hearts, we'll find our eyes can reveal the miracle of what's really there. A subtle glow. Warm, persistent, happy. A power to build and overthrow empires, and more.