If one would look deeply enough into the dark, one will see a light. It is the inner light, the soul of man.
"The candle of the Lord is the soul of man, exploring all of the inner chambers" [Mishlei 20:27]
This is not meant as fanciful poetry or empty words. Those who have experienced the inner glow know that its radiance is very real, very meaningful... it comes in flashes of truth and self-knowledge. And it is, indeed, a very splendid thing.
Our codifiers also recognise the validity of flashes in the dark. The Rambam teaches [Hilchos Talmud Torah] that although one is obligated to study the Torah at all times, the major portion of a person's wisdom is acquired in the still of the night. Torah study is, among other things, an exercise in self-discovery and improvement, and it should be studied in undisturbed nocturnal atmosphere. This inner light is very sensitive and must be carefully preserved: "A hasty step reduces the light of a person's eyes... This light may be regained at the Kiddush" [Shabbos 113a]
The man who is engrossed in the frantic pursuit of all that he sees around him is doomed to lose sight of the candle that burns within him. Only the serene sanctity of the Shabbos, its tranquil cessation of activity and hot pursuit, can restore to man his awareness of the precious inner light of his vision and his soul.
No Jewish holiday so lends itself to the challenges of the Age of Illumination as does the holiday of Chanukah, the festival of lights. If in doubt as to which lights are being celebrated, the outer or the inner - one need only to consult our sacred literature and find that these eight days are dedicated specifically to these latter lights, the internal illumination that brightens the soul.
The Rokeach, Rabbi Eliezer of Worms, a noted medieval scholar and authority, pointed out that a total of 36 candles are lit during the eight days of Chanukah. This corresponds to the first 36 hours of creation when a special unearthly radiance lit the universe. This spiritual light was quite different from any light we know now. But its potency was too intense to serve man's everyday, earthly needs and G-d hid it from view. Yet that light still exists - in the Torah - and it is for this reason that the Aramaic term for Torah is Oraisa - source of light.
One may wonder - if it was destined for concealment why did G-d ever create this advanced form of light? The answer to this is classically Jewish - better a hidden light than no light at all. For even though it was hidden, the light does exist and can be revealed to anyone who sincerely strives to find it. Those few who have succeeded in perceiving this light are the legendary lamed-vav 'niks - the 36 righteous men concealed from recognition in every generation.
Actually, one need not be a lamed-vavnik to uncover at least a portion of this hidden light, for anyone who studies Torah with sincerity may discover its splendour.
Source: "Seasons of the Soul" edited by Rabbi Nisson Wolpin