Harav Yaakov Moshe Katz Shlit''a
The Pnei Yehoshua, in Shabbos, asks a famous question: The halachah is that the avodah may be done even when in a state of tumah for the sake of the tzibbur - טומאה הותרה בציבור. Why, then, did Hakadosh Baruch Hu have to bring about the nes of having the oil in the pach shemen burn for eight days? They could have used oil that was tamei to light the menorah!
The answer is that with the nes of Chanukah, Hashem was trying to show us how precious our avodah is to him. Had they done the avodah b'tumah, it would not have been on the highest level, so Hashem made a nes to enable them to do the avodah b'taharah, to show how precious our avodah is to Him.
The passuk at the beginning of Bereishis says: וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם, and the Midrash teaches that choshech is an allusion to Yavan. Yavan decreed that Klal Yisrael could not learn Torah or do mitzvos, and they commanded: כתבו על קרן השור שאין לכם חלק באלקי ישראל. The darkness of Yavan was that they claimed that a person is just a person, and he is meant to be involved purely in Olam Hazeh, with no connection to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Torah and mitzvos are not important, they said. The whole culture of Yavan is to celebrate the guf; the Olympics come from Greece, and their whole society revolves around the beauty of the body, and making money - not learning, and not doing mitzvos. This culture is darkness for Klal Yisrael, so when the Yidden won, Hashem made the nes happen specifically with the light of the menorah.
The Gemara says (Shabbos 22b) that the ner maaravi used to burn longer than all the other lights on the menorah, as testimony that Hashem's Shechinah rested among Klal Yisrael. Even though they put the same amount of oil in all the lights of the menorah, the ner maaravi burnt longer than all the other lights, burning throughout the entire next day. The nes of Chanukah involved not only the ner maaravi, but all the lights of the menorah.
The Darkness of Yavan
Yavan said that Torah and mitzvos are valueless, and unfortunately, many people today feel that way as well: What is my Torah? What are my mitzvos? They're empty, they're dry. If only a person would realize that every time he does a mitzvah, it's precious to Hashem, it causes hashraas haShechinah on the person, and it illuminates the neshamah!
The 248 mitzvos correspond to the 248 parts of the body, and Rav Chaim Vital explains, in his sefer Shaarei Kedushah, that the neshamah comprises 248 parts, so every mitzvah a person does illuminates another part of the neshamah. If a person would feel that every time he does a mitzvah he is bringing the Shechinah into him and illuminating his neshamah, he would learn Torah and do mitzvos very differently.
After mentioning the choshech al pnei sehom, the pesukim in Bereishis mention the word ohr five times, corresponding to the five Chumashim. The one thing that illuminates the neshamah more than anything else is the five Chumashim of the Torah. Yavan is choshech, so the tikkun of Yavan was the nes of the menorah, the ohr that testifies that the Shechinah resides in Klal Yisrael and shows that we have a חלק אלוק ממעל burning inside us and spurring us to serve Hashem. Even though naturally, the oil should not have burned for eight days, Hashem made a nes to show that when a person exerts himself and is moser nefesh for avodas Hashem, as the Chashmonaim were, then He illuminates in the person the light of the Shechinah, enabling him to rise above all odds and overcome all of his nisyonos. Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted the menorah to be lit b'taharah to show how chaviv it is to Him, and that chavivus is expressed in the connection between us and Him: קודשא בריך הוא ואורייתא וישראל חד הוא.
Yavan wanted to deny that connection - כתבו על קרן השור שאין לכם חלק באלקי ישראל - and the biggest proof that we do have a חלק באלקי ישראל is that we lit the oil and Hashem brought about a nes in the actions that we did, causing the oil to burn for eight days. That shows that there is hashraas haShechinah in our actions, and that we have the power of חלק אלוק ממעל. That's the biggest victory over the tumah of Yavan.
In Al Hanissim we say that the Yevanim wanted "להשכיחם תורתך," and the word שכח, forget, has the same letters as חשך, darkness. We can understand that Yevanim wanted to stop the Yidden from learning Torah, but how could they make them forget the Torah?
You only remember something that is a part of you, a part of your life. If something isn't part of your life, you forget it. What the Yevanim were trying to do was to substitute our values with other values and make us believe that there are other things in life that are more important. Then, automatically we would forget the Torah.
The avodah of Chanukah is to rekindle our neshamah. When we light the menorah, we are illuminating our neshamah with the realization that we are a חלק אלוק ממעל, and that the Torah and mitzvos that we do bring Hakadosh Baruch Hu into our life. This is the tikkun brought about through the ohr of Chanukah, which causes us to see life in the proper light. The mitzvah is to kindle not just the oil, but also the light of the person's neshamah, as the passuk says: נֵר ה' נִשְׁמַת אָדָם. (This, parenthetically, is also the idea of hadlakas ner Shabbos.)
Bringing Light into Life
In Parashas Vayishlach, the sar of Eisav comes to fight with Yaakov. Who is the sar of Eisav? We're not allowed to say the name; he's called ס-מ-א-ל. The Kli Yakar notes that this name is from the lashon of סומא, blindness. The yetzer hara's objective is to blind people's eyes to the light of Torah and mitzvos and Hakadosh Baruch Hu and meaning in life. Yaakov fought with this sar until alos hashachar, refusing to allow the surrounding culture to blind him. The Rashba says that this is battle is an allusion to the future redemption, when the light of Hakadosh Baruch Hu will be revealed in the world and we will bask in the radiance of the Shechinah. Who will be the ones to merit reaching that "alos hashachar?" Those who fight the sar of Eisav and don't allow him to blind them to the light of Torah and mitzvos.
If a person works to overcome his nisyonos and learn and support Torah and keep the mitzvos meticulously, he is bringing ohr into his life, and he will be zocheh, le'asid lavo, when the great light of Hakadosh Baruch Hu is revealed, to an unparalleled pleasure. Chanukah is the time that gives us koach, it is a nes that happened in the midst of Galus Yavan, to show that the way to overpower the galus is to always remember who we are - we are a חלק אלוק ממעל, and when Hashem helps us we can rise above all situations and all nisyonos. A person just has to kindle the neshamah inside him, rousing himself to do ratzon Hashem, and he will see that this little hisorerus will burn for eight days and beyond, remaining aflame for the rest of his life, until "alos hashachar." This is the hisorerus of Chanukah and the avodah of Chanukah.
Hashem should help that we should all ignite our neshamos with the light of Torah and mitzvos, and through this everyone should be zocheh to the אוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי לֵב שִׂמְחָה, the great light hidden for tzaddikim to enjoy le'asid lavo.