Two Miracles: Two Modes of Commemoration
The Chanukah Miracles
The Rambam describes the Chanukah miracle as follows: 
As may be seen from the wording of the Rambam, there are two
miracles: the military victory in which G-d "delivered the mighty
into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the
few,"  and the miracle through which the oil in the golden
Menorah burned for eight days, rather than one.
- In [the era of] the Second Beis HaMikdash, the Greek kingdom
issued decrees against the Jewish people, [attempting to]
nullify their faith and refusing to allow them to observe the
Torah and its commandments.
[The Greeks] extended their hands against the property [of
the Jews] and their daughters.... The Jews suffered great
difficulties..., for [the Greeks] oppressed them severely
until the G-d of our ancestors had mercy upon them, delivered
them from [the] hands [of the Greeks] and saved them.
The sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priests, overcame [them],
slew them, and saved the Jews from their hand....
- When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, they
entered the Sanctuary.... They could not find any pure oil in
the Sanctuary, except for a single cruse. It contained enough
oil to burn for only one day. They lit... the lamps with it
for eight days until they could crush olives and produce pure
Relating to the Material and the Spiritual
The Rambam concludes  that, in commemoration of these
miracles, our Sages instituted the observance of the eight days
of Chanukah as "days of happiness and praise [to G-d]," on which
"lights should be kindled in the evening."
The commentaries on the Rambam  infer that "happiness and
praise" represent two different modes of commemorating the
miracles: "happiness" refers to the custom of holding celebratory
feasts  during Chanukah, and "praise" refers to the recitation
of the Hallel. 
Since the military victory was material, it is celebrated
physically, through eating and drinking; the miracle of
the Menorah was spiritual and therefore, it is commemorated
through spiritual activities - kindling lights and reciting
the Hallel. 
Light is the most spiritual element in our material world; though
visible, it is not governed by the conventional laws of physical
The spiritual aspect of the victory over the Greeks therefore
found expression in the miracle of the lights of the Menorah of
the Beis HaMikdash, and we commemorate this miracle by lighting
Chanukah candles every year.
"What is Chanukah?"
The Talmud  emphasizes primarily the spiritual aspect of the
Our Sages ask: "What is Chanukah?" - i.e., for which miracle was
the holiday instituted? 
Their answer recounts the episode of the Menorah without
elaborating on the military victory over the Greeks.
Although the miracle of the Menorah could not have taken place
without the military victory, the victory itself does not define
Chanukah is a holiday of spiritual light; even the war against
the Greeks was essentially spiritual, since it was a struggle
to preserve the Torah heritage from the taint of secular
This is why the prayer beginning VeAl HaNissim, which expresses
thanks to G-d for the military victory, does not mention the
spiritual miracle of the Menorah, for the latter eclipses it and
is deserving of separate mention. 
There is thus a separate means of commemoration for each of these
Body and Soul
The name Chanukah shares the same root as the Hebrew word for
"education" - chinuch. 
This implies a connection between the commemoration of this
holiday and our ongoing personal growth, for Chanukah, like
all the festivals, communicate s a message that applies even
after its celebration has concluded.
On a basic level, the message of Chanukah - that spiritual light
can overpower military might - teaches us the supremacy of soul
Although we are a composite of body and soul and although the
soul needs the medium of the body in order to express itself, the
supremacy of the soul is not limited; the soul invigorates the
body, and controls its functioning. 
By emphasizing only the miracle of the lights, our Sages
highlight yet a deeper lesson.
Chanukah grants every soul the potential to express itself
without any hindrance from the material nature of the body.
One can live and function in the world without being influenced
by worldliness. 
Chanukah enables us to live in the material world for the sake of
a spiritual purpose, in the same way that the military victory
over the Greeks was spiritually motivated.
Chanukah further empowers us to make our lives within the world
a medium for the expression of our spiritual service, like the
miracle of the Menorah.
Living in this manner will hasten the coming of the era when this
ability will spread throughout the world - in the Era of the
Redemption, when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of
G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed." 
May this take place in the immediate future.
- (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchos Megillah VeChanukah 3:1.
- (Back to text) The prayer beginning VeAl HaNissim (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 59).
- (Back to text) Rambam, loc. cit. 3:3.
- (Back to text) Yam Shel Shlomo on Bava Kama, ch. 7, sec. 37; Bayis
Chadash, Orach Chayim, sec. 670.
- (Back to text) From the wording of the Rambam it appears that he
maintains that it is a mitzvah to hold such feasts. The
Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 670:2, based on statements
of Rabbeinu Asher and Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi) differs,
maintaining that no mitzvah is involved. The Rama cites
other authorities who share the view of the Rambam, but
for different reasons.
- (Back to text) This is recited throughout all eight days of Chanukah (Rambam, loc. cit. 3:5; Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit. 683:1).
- (Back to text) The recitation of Hallel also connects to the military
victory as reflected in the prayer beginning VeAl
- (Back to text) This concept is reflected in the realm of Halachah.
Pesachim 26a states that an image (which is transmitted
through light rays) "has no substance."
- (Back to text) Shabbos 21b.
- (Back to text) Rashi, loc. cit.
- (Back to text) See the essay entitled, "Why the Maccabees Rebelled:
A Superrational Commitment to the Torah."
- (Back to text) According to this interpretation, the phrase (in VeAl
HaNissim) "and they kindled lights in Your holy
courtyards" does not refer to the lighting of the Menorah
(for that was kindled in the Sanctuary building), but
rather other lights kindled in celebration of the
military victory. [The Derashos of the Chasam Sofer (p.
67a) offer a different interpretation.]
- (Back to text) The essay (Level of Awarenes) develops this idea at length.
- (Back to text) This concept has deeper significance pointing to - to
borrow philosophic terms - the supremacy of form over
matter. This principle lies at the heart of contemporary
society, for in many areas, both in war and in peace, we
have seen how superior thought, the medium with which we
relate to form, can prevail over mere material power.
This concept is paralleled in a halachic principle that
eichus ("quality" or "inward virtue") is given precedence
over kamus ("quantity").
- (Back to text) Speaking of the halachic restrictions on transferring
objects from one domain to another on Shabbos, our Sages
(Shabbos 93b, as cited by Rambam in Hilchos Shabbos
18:28) state: "A person who transfers less than the
standard measure [of a substance] is not liable even
though he transfers it in a container. [Though he would
have been liable had he transferred the container alone,
here he is not liable, because] the container is
subsidiary [to its contents]; [when the person transfers
it,] he is concerned not with the container, but with
what it contains." Similarly, concerning the connection
between our bodies and our souls, we can regard our
material activities as having no independent importance,
and see them as nothing more than a medium for the
expression of our divine service.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 11:9.