How did we used to celebrate Pesach, less than 100 years ago?
They would wash the dishes, empty their pockets and sweep out the dirt floor. All could happen at the time of bedikat chametz.
How did people celebrate Sukkot before the invention of pop-up sukkahs and bamboo schach mats? How did they do it before plywood was common?
They worked hard. They bought wood, and cut some branches. Their sukkot were probably smaller than ours (unless you have a balcony sukkah), but they managed.
It used to be that if you wanted light for Shabbat- you lit long candles. If you wanted hot food- you left it over the fire. Now we have all sorts of inventions to make our Shabbat easier- and more 21st century.
But Chanukah? Chanukah! No modern technology can change it. Our menorahs may be fancier, bigger, and more expensive, and we may have more colours of candles then could once have been dreamed of.
But at the second, when the flames are burning, and we sing the stories of victory, it’s not so hard to see how it might have been before. No electric lights can substitute for the pure flame. There will always be eight flames in a line on the last night of Chanukah, and one shamash. We will always choose our lights from the list that they always had- olive oil, beeswax etc.
At night, when the menorah is lit, try to send yourself back to that time. Back 30 years, when your parents were in your place.
Back sixty years, when the Holocaust survivors were reaffirming their faith.
Back to the Holocaust itself, where starving Jews risked all to do the mitzvah.
Back to the years after the two galuyot (exiles), when everyone hoped that they would soon be able to go home.
Back to just five years after the war. The father of the house sets up the oil lights by the window. He lights them, and he tells his family the poetic song of how we have always been saved.
And if you can do that, why not go back one step farther? Pull yourself back to the miracle of Chanukah. Watch the oil on the Menorah burn. Look around and see your family with you. Feel the happiness. Then pull it forward into your life. Appreciate anew a non-electrical, non-modern commemoration.
בימים ההם, בזמן הזה.